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Page last updated on 2018 December 11

This page was created in 2009 as an outgrowth of the section entitled "Books Read or Heard" in my personal page. The rapid expansion of the list of books warranted devoting a separate page to it. Given that the book introductions and reviews constituted a form of personal blog, I decided to title this page "Blog & Books," to also allow discussion of interesting topics unrelated to books from time to time. Lately, non-book items (such as political news, tech news, puzzles, oddities, trivia, humor, art, and music) have formed the vast majority of the entries.

Entries in each section appear in reverse chronological order.

Blog entries for 2018
Blog entries for 2017
Blog entries for 2016
Archived blogs for 2015
Archived blogs for 2014
Archived blogs for 2012-13
Archived blogs up to 2011

2018/12/11 (Tuesday): Book review: Mundy, Liza, Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Erin Bennett, Hachette Audio, 2017.
Cover image for Liza Mundy's 'Code Girls' [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
If Hidden Figures wasn't enough to convince you that women can excel at the same level as and beyond men, when given opportunities, this book will. To relate a favorite quote of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, speaking on behalf of women, "I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks."
Let me begin by comparing the book to Hidden Figures (HF), as the subject matters are quite similar. Unlike HF, CG includes a lot of detail about the actual code-breaking challenges and methods, down to the names of ciphers and design of coding machines and the algorithms they used. There is attention to the women's personal and social lives, but those aren't the primary foci. Perhaps, this was made possible by code-breaking being more intuitive than space-trajectory calculations.
World War II, with its attendant shortage of men to fill available science/technology positions, provided an opportunity for women to move away from what were then nominal careers for them (teacher, librarian, etc.) and step up to roles as scientists and engineers. In fact, the US government recruited some of the code-breakers it needed to help intercept and decode enemy messages from among math teachers, who simply assumed that a math degree for a woman meant a teaching career.
Thousands of women, recruited from small-town schools and elite women's colleges were involved in the secret American program to break German, Japanese, Italian, and other communications ciphers from our adversaries. These efforts were no less important in shortening the War and ensuring the eventual victory than the contributions of those who took up arms or made battle plans in Europe and elsewhere.
Recruiting women for code-breaking jobs had started earlier, but it took greater urgency after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. The US Navy and other military branches expanded their search for talent, once the US officially entered the war. Interestingly, the branches of US military were competing in this domain and did not always share information with each other!
The women code-breakers used a combination of intuition, knowledge of math/stat, human engineering, and dogged hard work to attack each new code, sometimes taking weeks or months to break them. Mundy does provide a great deal of technical details about the secret codes and methods used to attack them. As the D-Day landing approached, the women were also charged with creating fake coded messages to mislead the axis forces about the actual attack site.
Sexism still prevailed in the military and elsewhere, as these women were helping with the war effort beyond everyone's expectations, breaking increasingly complex codes. For example, there were some who held the misguided view that women could not be trusted to keep secrets. Ironically, many of these women did not even share the nature of what they were doing with their families, and Mundy extracted information from them after providing assurances that NSA was okay with it. One person in charge of hiring women code-breakers reportedly told those who provided him with talent to send only pretty girls, because he did not want to be stuck with them after the end of the War!
Mundy's meticulous research for the book included numerous interviews with surviving code girls. The stories in this book form a nice complement to the much better-known efforts of the group at Bletchley Park, led by the British mathematician Alan Turing, which was made into a successful movie. Searching on-line, I could not find whether CG is being made into a movie. There is also no information on whether these women were honored with medals or otherwise.
Here is a 69-minute talk by the author about the book and its heroes. Mundy does mention at the very end of the Q&A period that the story has been optioned for a movie, but that there are no definite plans at this time.

2018/12/10 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
UCSB campus under unusual clouds, photo 1 UCSB campus under unusual clouds, photo 2 UCSB campus under unusual clouds, photo 3 (1) Unusual cloud formations and lighting produced these wonderful images on the UCSB Campus this evening.
(2) Universal Declaration of Human Rights turns 70: Every day should be human-rights day, but let's celebrate anyway by renewing our pledge to stand for rights and against all forms of injustice and disenfranchisement.
(3) A tweet for every occasion, just like Hallmark cards: About to appoint his third Chief of Staff in 2 years, Trump is being hit on the head with his 2012 tweet criticizing Obama for having 3 Chiefs of Staff (not Chief of Staffs) in less than 3 years. [Tweet image]
(4) Quote of the day: "Saudis would be speaking Farsi in about a week without US support." ~ US Senator Lindsay Graham, fear-mongering against Iran
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The "law-and-order" president will likely serve jail time for breaking campaign-finance and other laws.
- The company you keep: US joins Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait to challenge climate-change report.
- Duh-worthy research conclusion: College students changing majors pay more, take longer to graduate!
- A glimpse of unusual freeways in China: Marvelous feats of engineering! [Video]
- Spell checkers can't save the illiterate and the careless: Trump's "Smocking Gun" deemed mock-worthy!
(6) Jon Meacham's eulogy for GHWB: If you did not hear presidential historian Jon Meacham speak at George H. W. Bush's funeral, this 12-minute video is for you. Don't miss this touching and humorous speech!
(7) Fasten your seat belts: The stock market is following the chaos in the White House and the inconsistent ramblings of the Idiot-in-Chief. Some analysts predict continued volatility through 2019 and a drop of about 15% before an eventual rebound.
(8) China's very advanced on-line services: According to Fareed Zakaria, on his Sunday CNN program, very few Chinese carry cash or credit cards. A smartphone-based payment system is used everywhere. You can pay merchants or individuals a sum ranging from as little as a few cents to many thousands of dollars, with a tiny fee; even beggars have gone the way of electronic payment! One reason for China's leap forward in the area of electronic payments is that credit cards never took hold there, so there isn't an establishment to oppose the lightweight, low-overhead payment system. In another domain, food can be delivered in most parts of the country in as little as 30 minutes, arriving hot and costing only about $0.70 extra. Scooter-riding Chinese do the delivery, a la Uber. When there is a shortage of delivery people, a higher compensation is announced on short notice, using artificial intelligence, bringing more people to the service.

2018/12/09 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
New York City subway at rush hour, 1950s Aerial view of NYC's Times Square, 1967 Flight attendants, 1960s (1) History in pictures: [Left] New York City subway at rush hour, 1950s. [Center] Aerial view of NYC's Times Square, 1967. [Right] Flight attendants, 1960s.
(2) Emotionally Sentient Agents: This is the cover feature of the December 2018 issue of Communications of the ACM. Emotionally aware systems that respond to social and emotional cues can be more engaging and trusted, hence the incentive to study such systems, including issues of reliability and transparency. [Image]
(3) Persian Music: Shab-e Yalda, the Iranian festival celebrating Winter Solstice and the longest night of the year, is coming in a couple of weeks. Here is a song about it.
(4) The Armenian deduk, a wonderful double-reed woodwind musical instrument made of apricot wood:
Master deduk player Andranik Mesropian demonstrates dedul with his band. [Video 1]
Jivan Gasparyan's rendition of "They Took My Love Away," a tender song, featuring multiple duduks. [Video 2]
Deduk featured at a Yanni concert. [Video 3]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- It is said that Trump's Chief of Staff John Kelly is stepping down. I think the correct term is "stepping up"!
- A close look inside the International Space Station, including how the astronauts live. [25-minute video]
- The cast of "Friends," many moons ago. [Photos]
- Introducing a new musical instrument to symphony orchestras: The mechanical typewriter!
- Song and dance from Iran, featuring regional music and costumes. [Video]
(6) Fifty years ago, innovator extraordinaire Douglas Engelbart presented a demo at a technical conference that foretold today's on-line information services and preceded the Web by 20 years.
(7) College Cup's championship match: Akron, 5-1 semifinal victor over Michigan State, and Maryland, 2-0 winner over Indiana, met this afternoon for NCAA's soccer title. On the other side of Harder Stadium, across from me, are the VIP seating section (middle) and the two teams' cheering sections (left and right) [Photo]. On my side are general-admission and student seating sections. Are cameras this big really needed in the age of nanoelectronics? A UCSB musical group performed the National Anthem.
- I was expecting Akron to dominate, but Maryland had the upper hand in the scoreless first half.
- Maryland scored on a PK in the 57th minute.
- Akron presented some serious threats 15-20 minutes to the end of the game and again near the end.
- The Akron goalie was penalized for tripping a rushing forward in the 76th minute, but he saved the PK.
- Maryland claimed the NCAA soccer championship by beating Akron 1-0 and basking in the glory.

2018/12/08 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Beautiful flowers Is this a painting or a photograph? Hard to tell, given the image's low resolution. Either way, it's wonderfully composed/captured by an unknown artist Calligraphic rendering of a verse from Azeri poet Shahriar (artist unknown) (1) Beauty in nature and arts: [Left] Beautiful flowers. [Center] Is this a painting or a photograph? Hard to tell, given the image's fairly low resolution. Either way, it's wonderfully composed/captured by an unknown artist. [Right] Calligraphic rendering of a verse from Azeri poet Shahriar (artist unknown).
(2) In the end, Trump may be unseated in 2020 not by his impeachable crimes but by an economic recession, which some economists say is looming.
(3) Michelle Obama's memoir is seen as her second coming as one of the most popular Americans, launching what could become a billion-dollar brand.
(4) Trump-speak dictionary [Cartoon]: Did you know: I just found this out | People are saying: I'm making this up | We'll see what happens: I have no clue | Fake news: This makes me look bad | Believe me: I'm lying
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Nine months after his firing, Tillerson vents about his legal and moral disagreements with Trump.
- Trump's lawyers are drafting response to forthcoming Mueller report.
- John Kelly, no longer on speaking terms with Trump, is expected to resign soon. (CNN)
- Foxification of the Trump administration: The boundary is quite blurred. [Chart source: Washington Post]
- Images of the InSight Mars Lander released by NASA.
- Very close to the dwarf planet Ceres in July, NASA's Dawn spacecraft zoomed in to capture these images.
- Hard to beat this robot in fixing a Rubik's Cube! [Video]
- Yodeling is taken to new heights (pun intended) by this young girl: Wonderful! [Video]
- Tehran, on a rare smog-free day. [Tweet, with photos]
- Persian music: Reza Lotfi and Naser Farhang perform Darvish Khan's "Chahar Mezrab-e Mahoor."
(6) Scam alert: Last week, I received an e-mail message from a professional friend, whom I meet often at conferences, asking me whether I could help him with something. I answered "yes." The reply was a sob story: He was out of the country and his sister had to be hospitalized for emergency surgery, requiring him to pay an up-front fee to the doctor, which he could not do from where he was. I asked the impostor to provide me with a phone number so that I could call to verify his request, stating that I would report him to authorities otherwise. The impostor's next reply, coming from a different address that I did not recognize as belonging to my friend, included an apology, indicating that all was okay with him and that he had been hacked! I cc'ed my real friend on the correspondence, to alert him of the hack and hope to hear from him soon, although if his account has been hacked, the cc's may also go to the impostor!

2018/12/07 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Pond in the city of Rasht, near the Caspian coast, Iran Wonderfully colorful traditional Torkaman wedding ceremony, Iran Street in the central city of Isfahan, Iran, after rain. (1) Beautiful Iran: [Left] Pond in the city of Rasht, near the Caspian coast. [Center] Wonderfully colorful traditional Torkaman wedding ceremony. [Right] Street in the central city of Isfahan, after rain.
(2) Happy 20th anniversary to ISS: On December 7, 1998, the first two International Space Station modules (Unity and Zarya) were joined together, beginning the assembly of the orbital lab.
(3) AP report: Google, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, and Qualcomm execs gathered yesterday at the White House "amid strained ties" between the Administration and the tech industry and "an ongoing trade war with China."
(4) Racism: Arizona State Rep. David Stringer is banned from one of the school districts he represents, after suggesting that only white immigrants have been successfully assimilated into American society.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Republican strategist: Trump believes he can make the law go away by tweeting at it.
- Parents who lose children to school shootings develop bonds that transcend ideology and politics. [Image]
- This year's Black Friday set an all-time sales record of $6.22 billion: One-third of it was via smartphones.
- Bad habit: Nuns embezzle half a million dollars from school, spending it on vacations and gambling.
- No cure for HIV has been found yet, but science isn't giving up. [Ad for the company XOXOScience]
- Twitter stats released—Most tweeted-about: Donald Trump. Most "liked" or quoted: Barack Obama
- Persian music: Strong feminist message in a song from a century ago. Here is part of the Persian lyrics.
- A cheerful Azeri song, performed by the Rastak Ensemble with an Azeri guest vocalist. [Video]
(6) NCAA Soccer College Cup semifinals: After the end of my office hours and a couple of oral exams, I walked to Harder Stadium to watch both College Cup semifinals (Akron v. Michigan State and Indiana v. Maryland). The championship match will be played on Sunday at 5:00 PM. Even though UCSB isn't involved this year, we hope to qualify for 2020, when the College Cup returns to Santa Barbara. [Images]
The field at UCSB's Harder Stadium was in tip-top shape, as the first semifinal match between Akron and Michigan State began. [Photos, batch 1] Akron (in white uniforms) scored in the 16th minute, when a wide-open header on a crossed ball bounced off the crossbar and was put in the net by another player. Akron scored again in the 32nd minute on a beautiful header off a corner kick. Akron's goalie saved a couple of near-certain goals in the first half, allowing his team to go into halftime break with a 2-0 lead. Akron opened the second-half scoring in the 53rd minute on a wonderfully-placed free kick from 25 yards out. Akron's fourth goal, on an unassisted run, came in the 65th minute. After some tough luck and valiant saves by Akron's goalie, Michigan State finally got through in the 79th minute, scoring in the skirmish that followed a corner kick. Akron made the final score 5-1, finding the net again on a corner kick in the 85th minute.
The second semifinal match was between Indiana and Maryland. The tournament is being broadcast on one of Fox's sports channels, so TV cameras are present, as are electronic advertising banners, marching bands, and, of course, heavy security. [Photos, batch 2] In a fairly slow, defensive first half, Maryland (in white uniforms) opened the scoring in the 37th minute on a rebound from a corner kick, holding on to its 1-0 lead at halftime. Entering the last 30 minutes of the match, Indiana was energized, trying to even up the score, while Maryland was slowing down the tempo to protect its lead. Maryland scored again in the 80th minute, prevailing 2-0 and earning the right to play Akron on Sunday for the championship. My money is on Akron. [Video snippet]

2018/12/06 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Engineering and its various subareas: Word soup (1) What's in a Discipline's Name? Thoughts on Enrollment Crisis in Electrical Engineering: During our monthly UCSB/ECE faculty lunch of Tuesday 12/04, a lively discussion ensued about the crisis facing the EE discipline, as students migrate to the more "fashionable" computer science/engineering majors. A number of quick fixes were proposed, such as a PR campaign within high schools, to inform students about career possibilities and the attendant social impact for an EE graduate, and rebranding the major by introducing terms of current interest, such as "energy," in the department's name.
In my opinion, the impact of such cosmetic changes will be limited. Many engineering majors are misnamed, because their outdated names emphasize means and gadgets (how things are/were done) rather than end results (what is done). Within the fields of computer science and engineering, this topic has been discussed from time to time, with no clear resolution.
The name "computer science/engineering," for example, emphasizes the means ("computer") rather than the end ("information"). And this is true of the names of the field's most-prominent professional organizations, IEEE Computer Society and Association for Computing Machinery. Imagine names such as "telescope science" for cosmology, "microscope science" for microbiology, "car/vehicle science" for transportation engineering, and "aircraft science" for aerospace engineering! The old name "data processing" is perhaps more descriptive than "computer science," but it is now rather dated. The Europeans' choice of "informatics" turned out to be very forward-looking.
The need for thoughtful and precise naming is also evident for subdisciplines. Careless creation of terminology has brought about various subdiscipline names that to a great extent overlap with one another and lack clear delineation and purpose. Engineers and scientists must be taught and constantly reminded about the importance of a name reflecting the precise content and boundaries of what is being named. We are deluged with new terms such as "cyber-physical systems," "big data," "cloud computing," "fog computing," and "wireless sensor networks," most of which will fade, like so many of their predecessors.
Returning to my original point, what we now call "electrical engineering" at UCSB is really a collection of four subject areas that would be better called "information engineering," "material engineering," "communications engineering," and "control engineering," with each of the four areas overlapping with the activities and specialties in our other engineering departments; Other EE/ECE departments may also be concerned with "energy engineering." Electricity is no longer a defining attribute of these endeavors.
Isn't it time we organized engineering by ends rather than means?
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Mike Pence lies just as readily as Donald Trump, but he is less obvious about it!
- When thugs high-five each other and their stooge watches wistfully, because he's been told not to join in!
- Fatalities and dozens of injuries reported in suicide attack on a police post in the Iranian city of Chabahar.
- Huawei executive arrested by Canadian authorities, on US's request, for violating sanctions against Iran.
- How unsuspecting US veterans were used to funnel money from Saudi Arabia to the Trump Organization.
- Independent press? Fox News' Sean Hannity tells potential witnesses to criminal acts not to talk to FBI.
(3) Michael Flynn court document is the tip of a huge iceberg: His cooperation with Mueller apparently has aided a couple of secret investigations about which we don't know much.

2018/12/05 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover of 'Santa Barbara Independent' about the 2018 College Cup NCAA Soccer Cup 2018 logo Soccer action from a past College Cup (1) NCAA College Cup in Santa Barbara: Even though UCSB is not participating this year (it was eliminated early on), the top four men's soccer teams will be coming to town to play the semifinals (Friday, 12/7, 5:00 PM and 7:45 PM) and the final match (Sunday, 12/9, 5:00 PM). I will be going to all three games. The semifinals pairings are as follows. Akron, which beat Stanford 3-2, will play Michigan State, 2-1 victor over James Madison, at 5:00 PM. In the 7:45 PM match, Indiana, which prevailed over Notre Dame 1-0, will face Maryland, 1-0 victor over Kentucky. This is the second time UCSB hosts the College Cup and will do it again in December 2020 (the 2019 edition will be in Cary, NC). One reason for UCSB being favored by NCAA is its perennially strong soccer program and the large, enthusiastic crowds it attracts from among students and other Santa Barbara residents, shattering NCAA attendance records and gaining UCSB the nickname "Soccer Heaven."
(2) Today's funeral service for George H. W. Bush at Washington Cathedral was very dignified and full of interesting anecdotes and great humor. Perhaps only events like this can bring us Americans together, but we can't wish for more of them. RIP!
(3) ACM 2018 Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct: Almost all professional organizations develop and maintain an ethics code, spelling out the expected behavior of their members. Association for Computing Machinery's previous code, adopted in 1992, is being revised this year. The third draft of the new code is now available for previewing and comments.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- We need to restore faith in science, as the anti-vaxxer movement gains additional adherents.
- Researcher detained in Iran: Mullahs deem scholars in demography and population studies seditionists.
- Cartoon of the day: "People don't grasp the short-term consequences of saving the planet!" [Image]
- East-meets-West music: Casbah Shuffle on sitar, by Ashwin Batish (Sitar Power Band). [14-minute video]
- Ara Malikian performs "Misirlou" (the 1963 song, which was used as the theme of the movie "Pulp Fiction").
- Apt reminder, as we feast during the holidays, to open our hearts and wallets to the needy and the hungry.
- For every problem, there is an ingenious solution: Some methods of opening locked home or car doors.
(5) An unusual day in Goleta: We had periods of wind-driven rain that made an umbrella all but useless. The rain continued, at a gentler pace, as I took this photo of the Devereux Slough in the evening. I had my last classes for the quarter and will be done with teaching after my final exam on Monday and some grading tasks.

2018/12/04 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
An unusually clear view of the SB Channel Islands from the UCSB campus (due to high winds) The top half of the Christmas tree at the Camino Real Marketplace Useful gadget: Video doorbell that records hours of video and communicates with a smartphone app, photographed at Goleta Costco (1) Today in Goleta, CA: [Left] An unusually clear view of the SB Channel Islands from the UCSB campus. [Center] The top half of the Christmas tree at the Camino Real Marketplace. [Right] Useful gadget: Video doorbell that records hours of video and communicates with a smartphone app, photographed at Goleta Costco.
(2) Mind-boggling predictions for the next 7 billion years: Take these 41 predictions with a grain of salt. They range from the Jeddah Tower becoming the tallest building in the world in 2020, through completion of Shimizu Mega-City Pyramid in Tokyo in 2110 and Chernobyl becoming habitable once again in the year 20,000, to the Earth being sucked by a vastly expanded Sun in 7.59 billion years, ending all life as we know it.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Massive ground-beef recall: More than 12M lbs, with "EST. 267" stamped inside the USDA inspection mark.
- Trump cannot win the fight he started against General Motors, says Robert Reich in this opinion piece.
- Trump tries to hijack the Paris protests: He claims the protesters chant that they want Trump!
- Trump inflames or creates problems and later claims credit for half-baked solutions to those problems.
- A least-surprising revelation: MBS ordered and monitored the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
- California's Camp Fire "burns" an insurance company, whose liabilities are nearly three times its assets.
(4) Rising budget deficits during an economic boom: The US budget deficit ballooned after the 2008 crash, to save the economy. Then, it began declining, as the economy improved. Now, despite continued economic growth, deficits are rising, a highly unusual occurrence in good economic times.
(5) A robot in space: The spherical AI robot CIMON aboard the International Space Station communicates with IBM's Watson on Earth, so it can engage with the ISS crew. In one trial, CIMON identified and recognized an astronaut's face, took photos and video, positioned itself autonomously within a module via ultrasonic sensors, and issued instructions for the crew member to perform an experiment.
(6) Kronos Quartet, featuring Mahsa Vahdat: An amazing concert at UCSB's Campbell Hall tonight! [Images] The program, "Music for Change: The Banned Countries," included selections from Azerbaijan, Egypt, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Mali, and several pieces from Iran, including a Kurdish encore, all arranged in the Quartet's unique musical style. Ms. Vahdat performed some of her own compositions based on poems by Hafez and Mowlavi (Rumi). Video recording was disallowed, so here's similar music from YouTube. [Mahsa Vahdat's "Dorna" and "Avaaz-e Shoushtari"] [Kronos Quartet's "Tiny Desk Concert"]

2018/12/03 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
32-legged robot, built by Japan's Keio and Tokyo Universities Cartoon: Social-media bullying and hate speech are on the rise, thanks to the Bully-and-Insulter-in-Chief! Types of nuts, excluding nuts like me and you! (1) Tech-related images: [Left] This 32-legged robot, built by Japan's Keio and Tokyo Universities, can move in any direction by extending, retracting, and bending its legs. It is ideal for planetary explorations and disaster-zone operations. (Image credit: IEEE Spectrum magazine) [Center] Social-media bullying and hate speech are on the rise, thanks to the Bully-and-Insulter-in-Chief! [Right] Types of nuts, excluding nuts like me and you!
(2) Spelling- and grammar-challenged people aren't safe in cyber-space: Rudy Giuliani failed to insert a space after a period, thus inadvertently creating a link to "G-20.In" within his tweet. Someone claimed that URL and posted a derogatory comment about Trump, to be seen by anyone who clicks on the link! [Tweet image]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Prosecutors say former Trump fundraiser Elliott Broidy received laundered foreign money.
- Chelsea Clinton posted this photo of her family with George H. W. Bush, recalling his decency and kindness.
- Humor: "It's now 2018; that's the highest-number year under any president!" ~ Donald John Trump
- Quote: "You don't lead by hitting people over the head—that's assault, not leadership." ~ Dwight Eisenhower
- Persian music: Mahsa Vahdat performs "Dorna" (traditional vocal style in a modern musical framework).
(4) Book review: Gilbert, Elizabeth, The Signature of All Things: A Novel, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Juliet Stevenson, Penguin Audio, 2013. [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Cover image for Elizabeth Gilbert's 'The Signature of All Things' With this book, Gilbert returns to fiction, producing another typically delightful book. The characters are so carefully researched and elaborately described that the story, unfolding in the 18th and 19th centuries, reads like a historical treatise.
The central character is Alma, the bright daughter of Henry Whittaker, a man who went from rags (in England) to riches (in Philadelphia). Alma, with her curious mind and insatiable appetite for knowledge, ultimately becomes a botanist and falls in love with Ambrose Pike, another curious soul who is an orchid-painting utopian artist. Alma and Ambrose share a passion for understanding the workings of our world and the wonders of life.
Quite a few other characters and diverse geographic locales appear in the story, adding to its richness, as it explores deep ideas in science, religion, and commerce, and how these notions influenced the course of human history. An enjoyable read that also teaches the reader a great deal!
(5) Final thought for the day: G-mail now offers suggested replies to e-mails you receive ("smart replies"), as if we need to become even more machine-like in our interpersonal communications.

2018/12/02 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Skateboarding in New York City, 1965 Abraham Lincoln's inauguration, 1861 Albert Einstein lecturing on relativity, 1922 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Skateboarding in New York City, 1965 (Credit: Life magazine). [Center] Abraham Lincoln's inauguration, 1861. [Right] Albert Einstein lecturing on relativity, 1922.
(2) Happy Hanukkah to all who observe the Jewish Festival of Light. Hanukkah, which begins tonight, comes around Christmas, but the exact date fluctuates due to Hebrew calendar's lunar year being about 11 days shorter than our solar year. Jewish holidays fluctuate, rather than move throughout the year, because every 2-3 years (7 times in each 19-year cycle, to be exact), an extra month is added to the calendar to put it back in step with the seasons and the Grogorian calendar. There are also occasional one-day adjustments to two other calendar months to prevent certain Jewish holidays from falling on specific days of the week. Therefore, a common Jewish year may have three different lengths: 353, 354, 355 days. The 13-month "leap year" also has three possible lengths: 383, 384, 385 days. has an article on "The Jewish Leap Year."
(3) Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is being investigated for sexual misconduct: The alleged conducts are serious, and, if proven true, inexcusable. I like Tyson's wit and his efforts to bring science to the masses. But we can't have different standards for people we like and those we disdain. I will follow up on this story and will post again when I learn more.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Defense Secretary Mattis reveals that there is evidence Putin tried to interfere in our midterm elections.
- Paul Manfort could face more charges, increasing his jail time and the probability of turning against Trump.
- Mexicans outraged: Jared Kushner is awarded Mexico's highest honor, the Order of the Aztec Eagle.
- National Geographic's best photos of 2018 (curated): A feast for you eyes and mind.
- Persian music: The pop duo Andy and Kouros perform "Niloufar" on a concert stage.
- A beautiful performance, with masterful solos, of a piece by Niccolo Paganini at the Venice Carnival.
(5) For-profit conferences: Just like pay-to-publish journals which do little for scientific progress but fill the pockets of their publishers through "open-access publication fees," conferences are proliferating around the world to make money and to generate fake honors for their organizers and scores of people typically included on their technical program committees. By sending e-mails exemplified in the following fragment (copied verbatim from one of the many invitations I receive weekly), they stroke potential participants' egos, often in very poor English, to lure them into submitting papers and paying the conference fees.
"We came across your research work. You are a frontier with a multitude of experience and skill who can offer an in-depth explanation of the advancements and innovations. ... We wish to have your gracious presence as a Speaker to give an Oral presentation at our upcoming, Joint Conference on ..."

2018/12/01 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
An isolated and despised Trump at the G20 Summit Cartoon: He's making a list ... Checking it now ... Gotta find out who's naughty and how ... Robert Mueller's coming to town! New Yorker cartoon: Christmas spirit at the White House (1) Trump-related meme and cartoons: [Left] Trump looked ill-at-ease at the G20 Summit (see item 2 below). [Center] Song of the season: He's making a list ... Checking it now ... Gotta find out who's naughty and how ... Robert Mueller's coming to town! [Right] Christmas spirit at the White House (from The New Yorker).
(2) An isolated and despised Trump at the G20 Summit: Previously, Trump cancelled his meeting with Putin at the G20, blaming Russia's actions in Ukraine. Days after the said actions, until he boarded AF1 to fly to the Summit, he was still saying the two would meet. Only after news broke that Michael Cohen had admitted to lying about his Russia connections did Trump cancel. Now, Trump has cancelled his G20 press conference, citing respect for the Bush family. Since when has he developed this respect? His tweets certainly show no respect for 41, or 43, or 41's other son. Isn't the cancellation due to the fact that he would be asked about Bush, and Putin, and he did not know what to say?
(3) Persian Music: Some early Iranian films were referred to as "aabgooshti movies," because they invariably contained scenes of the protagonist (a man, of course) eating aabgoosht, a popular traditional lamb stew/soup in Iran. Here is a lighthearted song praising aabgoosht and the usual sides that go with it.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- George H. W. Bush, the one-term 41st US President, dies at 94 in Kennebunkport, ME.
- Famous inventions: Dunlop patented the inflatable tire in December 1888 (130 years ago). [Video]
- Some road hazards can be avoided by not driving behind or near vehicles carrying large, awkward loads.
- Humor: One way to force rude young men to yield their seats to a blind girl! [Video]
- Hilarious comedy skit: Conan O'Brien rents a family in Japan and trains the members to laugh at his jokes.
- Mohammad Nouri sings the beautiful oldie "Nazanin-e Maryam" ("Beloved Maryam") in this 9-minute video.
(5) Artificial intelligence is changing the legal industry: Asked whether he could see a day when AI-driven smart machines will assist with courtroom fact-finding or, more controversially even, judicial decision-making, Chief Supreme Court Justice John Roberts responded: "It's a day that's here and it's putting a significant strain on how the judiciary goes about doing things." This CACM article discusses whether AI judges and juries, with unemotional Vulcan-like reasoning and deduction abilities, are coming to our judicial system.
(6) Tonight's concert by UCSB Middle East Ensemble at Lotte Lehman Concert Hall: The Ensemble is marking its 30th year of activity. The program included Arabic music and dance, along with selections from Armenia, Jewish-Morocco, and Iran. [Photos] The following four videos are represntative of the diverse program.
Video 1: Armenian song/dance, "Khorotik Morotik" ("Flirtatious Love"), with solo vocalist Varduhi Sargsyan.
Video 2: Arabic solo dance, by guest performer Laura Leyl, set to the instrumental composition "Raqs Layla."
Video 3: Armenian song, known as "Sari Aghchik" ("Mountain Girl") or "Vard Sireci" ("I Loved a Rose").
Video 4: Persian dance, choreographed by Shahrzad Khorsandi, set to Mahshid Mirzadeh's "Seh Andarz."

2018/11/30 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Above Valley Falls, West Virginia. Sunset in Izmir, Turkey Bluebell season, England (1) Best Earth Pics: [Left] Above Valley Falls, West Virginia. [Center] Sunset in Izmir, Turkey. [Right] Bluebell season, England.
(2) Missing the good-old days, when small-scale data breaches were considered big news: Now, half a billion Marriott customer accounts are compromised and no one even blinks!
(3) Scientists are trusted to accurately land a craft on Mars but are considered wrong on climate change by a real-estate developer who claims to have a really large brain. [Tweet by Neil deGrasse Tyson]
(4) My home-office: Here is a panoramic view of my study from where I sit at my computer workstation. These photos, taken last night and today, show my study, with a minimalist decorative holiday tree and the two small walls, not covered with bookcases, holding my beloved family photos and various useful maps.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- California communities devastated by the deadliest fire in state's history are now coping with flash floods.
- Magnitude-7.0 earthquake rocks Anchorage, Alaska, causing major infrastructure damage. [CNN video]
- Sheryl Sandberg was indeed involved in ordering dirt-digging on George Soros and other Facebook critics.
- Thinking outside the box: How about putting airbags outside as well as inside cars to make crashes safer?
- Persian music: A tribute slide show to the late Mohammad Nouri, featuring his signature song "Nemisheh."
- Oldest depiction of Jesus discovered in the ruined baptistery of the northern church in desert of Shivta.
(6) The power of suggestion: Payless Shoes conducted a social experiment, creating the "Palessi" fictional brand and marking up their $20-$40 shoes about twenty-fold in a shoe boutique. Customers actually bought the obscenely-priced shoes. They got a refund at the end and also got to keep the shoes. Brilliant marketing!
(7) Final thought for the day: "There are many jobs that you can do, and do them well, while believing that the Earth is flat or 6000 years old, but if these are your beliefs, you should not head NASA or be in Congress." ~ Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, in an interview with PBS, aired tonight on "Firing Line" (not an exact quote; reproduced from memory)

2018/11/29 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon: Germany, 1930s; Iran, 2010s; America, ? Image from NYT article on dwindling insect populations Cartoon: Striking workers in Iran are seeking, and not getting much, solidarity from their fellow Iranians (1) Iran-related cartoons from, and another cautionary tale from science: [left] Germany, 1930s; Iran, 2010s; America, ? [Center] Image from NYT article on dwindling insect populations (see item 2 below). [Right] Striking workers in Iran are seeking, and not getting much, solidarity from their fellow Iranians.
(2) Why our car windshields are no longer killing grounds for a vast array of insects? Is it because insect populations are dwindling? A joint study by universities in Denmark and the US recruited 200 Danes to drive through a variety of habitats, with their windshields replaced by nets, to test this hypothesis. It is indeed true that insects have fallen prey to a massive loss of biodiversity on Earth, the so-called "Sixth Extinction." Read the highly detailed account, with ample references to previous studies about the trend and its potential impacts on our lives, in this New York Times article.
(3) Genetically-edited twins born: A Chinese scientist, who claims to have been involved in producing the first human beings (twin baby girls) born with edited genomes, is facing skepticism and criticism. Of course, the feasibility of such a feat isn't in doubt, but ethical considerations had prevented other scientists from attempting gene-editing on humans. It is the background of the Chinese scientist, who had never before presented his work publicly, save for a handful of YouTube videos, that fuels the skepticism.
(4) An interesting account of what's in store for NASA's new Mars lander, before it begins its explorations in a few months, and why it takes so long to get started. [ article]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump is stuck in 19th-century mining/manufacturing jobs, while businesses want to pivot toward high-tech.
- Trump floats the idea of pardoning Manafort; others doubt he'd be willing to pay the huge political cost.
- Trump's former attorney/fixer admits to lying to Congress about efforts to build a Trump Tower in Russia.
- Apt response to Trump's "I don't believe it" reaction to his administration's climate-change impact report.
- At last: Heavy rain in Santa Barbara! [Photos, from Thursday, November 29]
(6) These figures (with captions) from an article published in the October 2018 issue of IEEE Computer tell an interesting story about how women have been viewed/treated in computing, to the detriment of our country. [Citation: Hicks, Marie, "When Winning Is Losing: Why the Nation that Invented the Computer Lost Its Lead," IEEE Computer, Vol. 51, No. 10, pp. 48-57, October 2018.]

2018/11/28 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Trump and evangelicals: Strange bedfellows (cartoon) Trump to Merkel: 'You guys in Berlin had a terrific wall.' (Cartoon)  Meme of the day: Clown Prince Donald bin Fred al Trump (1) Trump-related humor: [Left] Trump and evangelicals: Strange bedfellows. [Center] Trump to Merkel: "You guys in Berlin had a terrific wall." [Right] Meme of the day: Clown Prince Donald bin Fred al Trump.
(2) Robots to the rescue: Walking and swimming robots are used to investigate Fukushima's failed reactors to find out where the fuel (lethal for centuries) has gone. The robots help produce 3D virtual-reality models of the reactors' insides for humans to explore. The site has turned into a robotics research laboratory. [CBS report]
(3) Whose life was ruined? Brett Kavanaugh sits on the Supreme Court and has gone back to coaching girls' basketball. Christine Blasey-Ford continues to receive death threats.
(4) Disdain for science: Donald Trump and his press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dismiss the findings of a climate report issued over the Thanksgiving weekend, based on the work of 300 scientists and 13 federal agencies. We have a President who acts as his own economic adviser, climate scientist, and diplomatic corps!
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- US midterm election results were a mixed bag for science: A number of senior, experienced lawmakers who were champions of research funding were ousted.
- Thin-skinned President walks away when fact-checked by a CBS reporter.
- Shahrzad Nazifi, a Baha'i and the first female motocross champion in Iran, has been arrested.
- The Age of Megafires: A prophetic report, first aired 11 years ago by CBS newsmagazine "60 Minutes"!
- A wonderful performance of "Despacito" by a piano-cello duo.
- Amazon patents an airbag that is inflated by a drone before dropping a package for delivery.
- This 2-year-old time-lapse video from NASA shows the disappearing arctic ice over the period 1991-2016.
- Most-dangerous countries to visit: I was surprised to learn that nearly all parts of Iran are rated very safe.
(6) To Kill a Mockingbird: The beloved novel is becoming a Broadway play for a modern audience, to open in December, 58 years after the book was published and 56 years after the release of a successful movie based on it. Jeff Daniels will play attorney Atticus Finch, the role that earned Gregory Peck an Oscar. [CBS report]

2018/11/27 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Poster: Stop violence against women! The art of rock-balancing: A giant foot Breaking the chains, on the way to freedom (1) An important cause, and some art: [Left] The most dangerous place for women is home: More than half of worldwide female murder victims last year were killed by their partners or family members, according to a new UN report. [Center] The art of rock-balancing: Giant foot in Zurich, Switzerland (artist unknown; photographed by Ms. Shirin Dabir). [Right] Breaking the chains, on the way to freedom.
(2) Cities used to burn to the ground all the time until the 1920s: Then, we started to do the equivalent of vaccination by developing fire codes and using fire-resistant building materials. Once cities stopped burning, we grew complacent and wavered in strict enforcement of fire codes. It's time to go back to the drawing board and use the knowledge we have gained to avoid another Paradise-like catastrophe.
(3) WSJ Econ 101: Trump boasts that his new tariffs are pouring money into the US coffers, not knowing, or conveniently forgetting, that those same tariffs lead to higher prices, a form of regressive tax on all Americans.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Major snowstorm causes thousands of flight cancellations in United States' Midwest region.
- Firing of tear gas and closing of US entry escalate the crisis at US-Mexico border.
- Magnitude-6.3 quake in Iran, centered near Sarpol-e Zahab, injures hundreds in Kermanshah and vicinity.
- The prophetic film "Network" comes to the stage: Artistic version of "Fake News" by playwright Lee Hall!
- Humor: When the pool's on-duty lifeguard has to take a bathroom break! [Video]
- Azeri music: Wonderful song performed by the Rastak Ensemble, accompanied by a guest singer. [Video]
- Persian music: Two young girls perform (violin and vocals) the oldie song "Simin Bari" on a street in Tehran.
- Persian Music: Beautiful oldie, performed with smiles and joy. The performers are unknown to me. [Video]
(5) "First Man," a "Script to Screen" presentation at UCSB's Pollock Theater: The acclaimed 2018 film, telling the story of America's space program in the decade leading to the 1969 moon landing, was screened tonight, followed by a moderated discussion with its Oscar-winning screenwriter Josh Singer. The film is based on James R. Hansen's book by the same title. The film's central character is Neil Armstrong. Even though there is admirable attention to technical details, with eye-popping special effects, the real focus of the film is the emotional travails of Armstrong (played by Ryan Gosling), as well as other astronauts and their families, when faced with intensive training and high-risk space missions. A flyer along with a few pages of the screenplay were distributed to the audience. [Images]

2018/11/26 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) Mars landing: After its 7-month journey from Earth and 7-minute descent through the Martian atmosphere, the landing module of NASA's InSight Probe touched down on Mars just before noon, PST, today. A manned mission to Mars for the 2030s is said to be in planning stages. [Video]
(2) US State Department report: Khashoggi's problems first arose not because he criticized Saudi leaders, but because he criticized Donald Trump. This explains Trump's weak reaction to the gruesome killing.
(3) Informatics Society of Iran (ISI) turns 40: This momentous anniversary was celebrated last Wednesday, 2018/11/21, in Tehran. As the lead founder of the Society in 1978 and its President for the first 5 years of its existence, I was asked to send a special message to its members. [2-minute Persian video message]
This Google Drive contains a number of videos related to Informatics Society of Iran's 40th-anniversary celebration. Titles of and inks to individual MP4 Persian-language videos on the drive follow. [Introducing ISI] [Message from Dr. Parhami] [ISI Teaser] [ISI Reminiscences] [ISI Activities]
(4) Applying ML & NLP at Google Ads: This was the title of a talk by Dr. Kazoo Sone (Google software engineer) on machine learning and natural-language processing, as applied at Google Ads.
Dr. Sone discussed the difficulties of supervised learning, in view of its need for vast amounts of labeled data. Even though it appears that Google does enjoy access to vast amounts of data, the portion of the data that is labeled is often inadequate for training strong supervised learning models. Using examples from quality improvement efforts for search ads, Dr. Sone described some of Google's challenges and experiences, both from the machine-learning perspective and the NLP research that links an ad's performance to its writing style, particularly what words in ads influence our decision-making. [Some slides]
One annoying feature of such talks is that a lot of buzzwords are thrown around and claims made, with little technical depth. This is a direct consequence of companies wanting to hold on to technical know-how for fear of rivals using the knowledge, which is utterly incompatible with a university's mission to spread knowledge.
(5) UCSB Faculty Research Lecture: Each year, a UCSB colleague is honored as Faculty Research Lecturer and tasked with delivering a public lecture to describe his/her leading-edge discoveries to the campus community. The 2018 honoree, my ECE colleague Professor Umesh K. Mishra, spoke at Corwin Pavilion this afternoon under the title "Thank God for Gallium Nitride."
The development of blue and white LEDs by Nobel Laureate and UCSB colleague Shuji Nakamura generated much excitement about Gallium Nitride (GaN), whose applications have spread beyond general lighting to lasers, horticulture, and electronics. Hybrid and electric vehicles, data servers, solar inverters, robotics, gaming, and communications across a large band of interests are all being served by GaN in important ways.
Professor Mishra described his research results on GaN and its varied applications, characterizing it as the miracle material that keeps on giving. Borrowing a phrase from former President Obama, the speaker ended his talk with the slogan "Yes We GaN"! [Some slides]

2018/11/25 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Isfahan City Festival, Iran: Photo 1 Isfahan City Festival, Iran: Photo 2 Isfahan City Festival, Iran: Photo 3 Isfahan City Festival, Iran: Photo 4 Isfahan City Festival, Iran: Photo 5 Isfahan City Festival, Iran: Photo 6 (1) Isfahan Festival: Locals don traditional costumes and demonstrate arts/crafts for which Isfahan is famous.
(2) About town on a beautiful sunny Sunday: Having lunch with the kids at Hamburger Habit in Isla Vista, photographing the birds of the US Pacific Coast at Campus Poing Beach and UCSB Lagoon, and capturing the beauty of the southeastern end of the UCSB campus in photos and a 1-minute video.
(3) Beautiful Iran: This time-lapse video captures Isfahan's sights and culture. By the number of items I have posted about Isfahan, you can probably tell that I have an Isfahani friend feeding me videos and other posts about the historic city!
(4) Music/dance video: This French tune entitled "Natalie" was quite popular in Iran during my youth. In it, the singer reminisces about a beautiful guide he had when he visited Moscow's Red Square.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Saudi Arabia joins Trump in spreading doubts about CIA's credibility.
- Words and actions from "The Lion King" versus "The Lying King": Some similarities. [Video]
- Hi-tech transportation: The airplane that transports airplanes! [Video]
- Lo-tech transportation: Transporting sheep on a bicycle! [Video]
- Quote: "When you feel dog-tired at night, it may be because you've growled all day long." ~ Anonymous
- Final thought for the day: "There are as many martyrs for bad causes as for good ones." ~ Anonymous

2018/11/24 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Our perfect-attendance photo with all 18 family members present, taken today as part of Thanksgiving-weekend gathering (1) Perfect-attendance photo with all family members present, taken today as part of Thanksgiving gathering.
- My mom, the 89-year-old family matriarch, with all of her 7 grandkids and both great-grandkids. [Photo]
- My mom photographed separately with each of her 4 children, alongside his/her family. [Photo collection]
(2) With light-weight material, spraying particles into the Earth's atmosphere or installing space reflectors may prove feasible in a decade or two for slowing down global warming.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Anti-government protests turn violent in Paris: Police fires tear gas into the crowd. [Images]
- Chilling repetition of history: The "failing" New York Times was at it, spreading "Fake News," 80 years ago.
- Subject explains global warming to know-it-all King. [Tweet images]
- IEEE uses a photo from its Iran Section (or is it Turkey?) in its campaign to attract more student members.
- Quote of the day: "To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved." ~ George Macdonald
- "My warning about social media has had 50,000 retweets." [Cartoon credit: E&T magazine, Nov. 2018]
(4) Serendipitous learning: The freshman seminar I teach this quarter meets in UCSB's Humanities and Social Sciences Building. Walking to class and having a few minutes to kill one day last week, I looked at a few posters on the hallway's walls. This particular poster reports on a study that demonstrates positive correlation between milk DHA levels and PISA math scores in 26 nations, once statistically controlled for per-capita GDP.
(5) Final thought for the day: "Never try to reason the prejudice out of a man. It was not reasoned into him, and cannot be reasoned out." ~ Sydney Smith

2018/11/23 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Woke up to a sunny post-Thanksgiving Friday, with gorgeous blue skies: Nothing black about it! Mount Damavand, a dormant volcano which is Iran's tallest peak, shot from Poloor by an anonymous friend My daughter's apple-pie creation for Thanksgiving (1) Beauty, natural and human-made: [Left] Woke up to a sunny post-Thanksgiving Friday, with gorgeous blue skies: Nothing black about it! [Center] Mount Damavand, a dormant volcano which is Iran's tallest peak, shot from Poloor by an anonymous friend. [Right] My daughter's apple-pie creation for Thanksgiving.
(2) The Bully-in-Chief hears back from many Twitter users about his stance that lower oil prices are more important than holding Saudi Arabia accountable for its crimes. [Tweet image]
(3) Advice to MBS: Don't delude yourself that you are safe because Trump stands by you and even thanks you! The American people and the rest of the world will hold you accountable.
(4) Iran's Mountain-Climbing Association (a government entity) has announced that women need permission from their husbands or male guardians before going hiking or climbing.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- CIA may have recording of MBS ordering the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
- The lies continue to pile up! [Trump lied when he said CIA didn't link Saudi Prince to Khashoggi killing."]
- Deadly wildfires, hurricanes, and heat waves, already battering the United States, will worsen over time.
- Isaac Larian: Man who left the Iran's slums as a teen now runs one of America's biggest toy companies.
- iPad magic: There are quite a few digital-magic-trick videos like this one on the Internet.
- Quote: "A conscience is what hurts when all your other parts feel good." ~ Comedian Steven Wright
(6) Facebook knew about Russians interfering in US election more than a year before publicly admitting it: Then it hired a PR firm to control the damage and dig dirt on critics.
(7) Trump calls reports about his displeasure with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin "Fake News," adding that they never ask him about such cases, because it would ruin their stories.
No, Donald; they don't ask you because you lie!
(8) Beliefs of Brits and British Christians: The only subject about which Brits as a whole are more positive than the Christians among them is alien-life/UFOs. On karma and magic, there is little difference between Brits and British Christians. [Chart from E&T magazine, issue of November 2018]

2018/11/22 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
John Wayne at 23 years old, 1930 The Beatles, on stage in Paris, 1965 Young Clint Eastwood, undated photo (1) Film and music history in pictures: [Left] John Wayne at 23 years old, 1930. [Center] The Beatles, on stage in Paris, 1965. [Right] Young Clint Eastwood, undated photo.
(2) Happy Thanksgiving Day to all my family members and friends, especially to my three children. May you all have an abundance of things for which to be thankful and may our relationships and friendships have better fates than the Thanksgiving-Day turkey! [Image]
(3) It's official now: The 2018 US midterm election results saw Republicans suffer the worst House defeat in US history. [Source: Newsweek magazine]
(4) Jeff Sessions is no hero: It's tempting to praise Sessions, because he stood up to Trump on certain issues and was bullied by him. But examining his record as AG leaves no doubt that he is a regressive individual living in the past and wanting to reverse decades of US civil rights gains.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Samsung is investing heavily on its foldable smartphone: Apple is sure to follow suit. [Source: Newsweek]
- Iran exevutes the "Gold-Coins King": He must have stepped on the toes of other grand thieves! [Cartoon]
- Teachers' strike in Iran leads to a wave of arrests.
- Female singers, who are banned by Iran's government, hold underground concerts through acquaintances.
(6) Chief of Staff John Kelly accused Fox News' Jeanine Pirro of "inflaming an already vexed Trump," when she told him in the Oval Office that he should get the DoJ to investigate H. Clinton for the Uranium One deal.
(7) Pot calling the kettle black: Turkish officials have condenmned the "comical" Trump stance on MBS. Of course, Turkey scarecely has a better human-rights record than Saudi Arabia.
(8) Persian music: Much of the pre-Islamic-Revolution music and other art forms are no longer shown on Iran's state TV, but people recuperate and cherish them in private gatherings and, when they can, on the streets.
(9) Persian music: Hossein Khajeh-Amiri, aka Iraj, and Salar Aghili perform "Aavaay-e Iran" ("The Voice of Iran") in this 6-minute video production sponsored by the Export Bank of Iran. [Other credits in the video]

2018/11/21 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
More heart-wrenching scenes from November 2018 California wildfires: Photo 1 More heart-wrenching scenes from November 2018 California wildfires: Photo 2 More heart-wrenching scenes from November 2018 California wildfires: Photo 3 (1) Three more heart-wrenching photos from November 2018 California wildfires.
(2) Advice about tech and social media: People sound tough and in control, but they are scared and confused behind the fake facade. We should take control of our lives back from constant distraction by non-stop connectivity. [10-minute video, with Persian subtitles]
(3) Middle-age American men are threatened more by loneliness than by consequences of obesity or smoking: A 2017 Boston Globe article, expertly translated into Persian by Farnaz Seifi.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump wanted to order the DoJ to prosecute H. Clinton and J. Comey, but his lawyers wouldn't comply.
- A new breed of legislators arrive in Washington, ready to swim with and defeat swamp creatures! [Tweet]
- Report: Religion is blamed for violence against women. Me: Duh! [Source: Newsweek magazine]
- Cartoon of the day: Natural disasters hit California! [Image]
- Pinpointing one of our dilemmas: "Knowledge is power. Ignorance is bliss. Tough choice!" ~ Anonymous
- Humor: Perils of traveling abroad without knowing the local language. [1-minute video]
- Santa Barbara in late November: Today, on the east side of the UCSB Campus. [Photos]
- Fortune cookies have been giving me wonderful advice of late: "Delight in a friend's success." [Images]
(5) Quote of the day: "The myth holds that Trump is a tough guy who fights back. In fact, he is a fragile man running out of safe places to hide." ~ Author and CNN commentator Michael D'Antonio
(6) The Holiday Season is upon us and, with it, come holiday scams followed by tax scams (fraudulently filing your taxes and getting your refund). Be particularly vigilant with your charity donations over the next month, as scammers position themselves to take advantage of the holiday spirit.
(7) Human-rights report: Saudi Arabia electrocuted, flogged, and sexually abused female activists. Meanwhile, on the eve of Thanksgiving Day, Trump has indicated that he is grateful to Saudis for helping lower oil prices. How low have we sunk as a nation to thank murderous thugs for saving us a few cents on a gallon of gas?
(8) Trump attacks the judiciary again: "We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges." ~ Chief SCOTUS Justice John Roberts, after Trump berated a judge as "an Obama Judge" (Trump dismissed Roberts comments in subsequent tweets)

2018/11/20 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Example of devastation from California wildfires Brexit commemorative 50p coin Humor: Californians take Trump's suggestions to heart! (1) Reality and some political humor: [Left] Example of devastation from California wildfires. [Center] Brexit commemorative 50p coin. [Right] Preventing wildfires: Californians take Trump's suggestions to heart!
(2) After dissing the late Senator John McCain for being captured, bone-spurs Donnie attacks highly decorated retired Admiral William McRaven for not killing Osama Bin Laden sooner. Are our military leaders asleep? Why are they putting up with this nonsense?
(3) Quote of the day: "The old cliche about laughter being the best medicine turns out to be true, which is good because that's what the current administration is trying to replace Obamacare with." ~ Julia Louis-Dreyfus, while accepting the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in October 2018
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Private e-mail account: Let's recycle Trump's old tweets, with Hilary Clinton replaced by Ivanka Trump.
- WH staff is bracing for tweetstorms during Trump's unsupervised time at Mar-a-Lago over Thanksgiving.
- Alarm bells go off as a Kremlin-backed Russian becomes one of two nominees to run Interpol.
- CDC issues an unusually broad warning against eating romaine lettuce in any form and from any source.
- Cartoon Collections: If you like New Yorker's cartoons, this Web site, has many of those, and more.
- I have been following this fortune-cookie advice for several years now and it seems to be working!
- Beautiful Azeri music and dance: No info about performers or venue. [4-minute video]
- Iranian Music: Sepidar Ensemble performs Qajar-era music in a historic palace setting. [27-minute video]
(5) Because of his hatred toward Iran, Trump stands by murderous MBS: "In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran."
(6) It's now certain the WH Chief of Staff John Kelly will be replaced: Ivanka, Jared, and Trump's two sons have their favorite (Mike Pence's young Chief of Staff), but Kelly has his supporters among WH insiders too.

2018/11/19 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Multi-player computer game from the 1990s Fireman's bicycle, 1905 Car hi-fi system, 1960 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Multi-player computer game from the 1990s. [Center] Fireman's bicycle, 1905. [Right] Car hi-fi system, 1960s.
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Mitch McConnell takes hypocrisy to the next level by accusing Democrats of partisan politics. [Quotes]
- Leaked SMS texts from an insecure Voxox server exposed password resets and two-factor codes.
- Persian Music: A beautiful performance of the golden oldie "Beh Esfahan Ro" ("Go to Isfahan").
- This little girl won't let no freaking pigeon take away food that is hers! [1-minute video]
- Tehran University's College of Engineering is utterly inaccessible to wheelchair-bound individuals. [Image]
- Drivers helping a man who seems to have car trouble are pleasantly surprised!
- Good for a chuckle: What did the janitor say when he jumped out of the closet? ... Supplies!
- Cartoon of the day, as we approach Thanksgiving: "No giblets, but there's an organ-donor card." [Image]
The bulletin board outside my UCSB office, updated today with cover images of my existing and forthcoming books (3) Bulletin board outside my UCSB office, updated today with cover images of my published and forthcoming books.
(4) Concealed Online: For-profit pro-gun entity that was among the biggest spenders on Facebook political ads during the 2018 US midterm elections.
(5) Black Friday: A day when Americans trample others to get to on-sale items, exactly one day after giving thanks for all the things they have.
(6) Translated into English from a church posting in France: If you want to talk to God, enter, choose a quiet place, and talk to Him. If you want to see Him, send him a text message while driving.
(7) Quote of the day: "The course of history is directed by the choices we make and our choices grow out of the ideas, the beliefs, the values, the dreams of the people. It is not so much the powerful leaders that determine our destiny as the much more powerful influence of the combined voice of the people themselves." ~ Eleanor Roosevelt, writing shortly before her 1962 passing
(8) Newsletter headline, referring to NYT story that Harvard, Stanford, and other universities want to address tech's ethical dark side: Universities Look to Bring "Medicine-Like Morality to Computer Science." Me: Oh no!

2018/11/18 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Trump's presidency is in many ways similar to Nixon's, with the crookedness vastly amplified MAGA wall-building block set Trump toilet-cleaning brush (1) Trump-related designs: [Left] Trump's presidency is in many ways similar to Nixon's, with the crookedness vastly amplified. [Center] MAGA wall-building block set. [Right] Trump toilet-cleaning brush.
(2) And now, some humor from the man-child in the White House: "The White House is running very smoothly and the results for our Nation are obviously very good. We are the envy of the world. But anytime I even think about making changes, the FAKE NEWS MEDIA goes crazy, always seeking to make us look as bad as possible! Very dishonest!" ~ DJT tweet
(3) Look who's giving lessons on decorum: Trump has said that he'll walk out of press conferences if reporters are rude to him. Perhaps reporters should reciprocate the next time he says "What a stupid question"!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Northern California fire death toll now at 71, with ~1000 missing. The area has world's worst air quality.
- Devastating fire in SoCal's Malibu area stopped moving westward only when it reached the Pacific Ocean.
- Horse survived California wildfire by taking shelter in a pool: It was shivering uncontrollably when rescued.
- More than 200 mass graves found in areas of Iraq formerly controlled by ISIS, according to a UN report.
- Saudi Arabia beheads Indonesian maid for killing her boss as he was raping her.
- Someone who voted at the last minute is smiling: Democrat wins Kentucky House race by a single vote!
(5) The Metric System redefined: On Friday, October 16, 2018, representatives from 60 different countries voted unanimously to rid the Metric System of its dependence on physical objects, such as the platinum-iridium cylinder (stored under lock and key in France) that defined the kilogram. Everything is now defined in terms of fundamental constants of nature, making the units more accurate and easily reproducible, even on Mars.
(6) "Leave No Trace": In this 2018 movie, screened at UCSB's Pollock Theater as part of the "Script to Screen" series on Saturday 11/17, a man (Ben Foster) and his teenage daughter (Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, offering a superb performance) have lived off the grid, in a forest near Portland, Oregon, for years. The father is a PTSD-suffering veteran who wants to be on his own. The daughter accompanies him, despite yearning for a social life and a phone! Their idyllic life is shattered, when both are placed into social services and taken to live on a farm. After clashing with their new surroundings, the pair set off on a harrowing journey back to their wild homeland. The early part of the film is based on the true story of a man and a young girl brought in from their forest dwelling. Peter Rock turned it into the novel My Abandonment, on which the movie is based. The film screening was followed by a moderated discussion with Director/Co-Writer Debra Granik. [Images]
(7) UCSB Faculty Artist Recital: World-renowned flutist and Music Department Professor Jill Felber performed at Karl Geiringer Hall, accompanied by the Nexus String Quartet [Program/bios/photos]. An enjoyable performance in an intimate setting; one of the perks of working at a major university with wonderful artists and arts departments. A variation from the first piece on the program, a composition for flute and string quartet by composer/pianist Amy Marcy Cheney Beach [1867-1944], is captured in this 1-minute video. A short sample from Mozart's String Quartet No. 19 in C Major, K. 465, "Dissonance," performed by the Nexus String Quartet appears in this 2-minute video.

2018/11/17 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) Book review: Moshfegh, Ottessa, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Julia Whelan, Penguin Audio, 2018. [My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Cover image for Ottessa Moshfegh's 'My Year of Rest and Relaxation' This novel is set in the year 2000, when an anti-social twenty-something woman, fired from her job and with an inheritance to sustain her, decides to cut off from the world and lead a drug-addled existence pent-up in her apartment. Moshfegh has received a great deal of attention for this novel and other works.
The novel isn't just about the protagonist's year of rest and relaxation, but has flashbacks to other parts of her life. Moshfegh's story comes across as the whinings of an entitled young woman. After a few chapters, one gets tired of the repeated recitation of the lists of pills the young woman took, and descriptions of her disjointed states after she woke up from long sleeps. One can't help but wonder how the protagonist could remember all those details, when her mind was fogged up.
On the positive side, the writing is extremely good. Moshfegh seems to have a natural flair for the English language, and I hope to someday read other works from her that are a bit more consequential.
(2) This 1-minute audio clip is said to be the oldest recording of Iranian diva Googoosh, showcasing her talent at a very young age and demonstrating why she is still going strong at age 68.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Investigation report: The Florida International University bridge that collapsed in March had design errors.
- Seven women file a $70 million lawsuit against Dartmouth for shielding sexual predators.
- First cartoon of the day: "It's going to be a long couple of years." [Image]
- Second cartoon of the day: "Now, that's a representative parliament!" [Image]
- Oxford English Dictionary's Word of the Year for 2018: "Toxic" [Here is the shortlist]
- Flash-mob: Heart-warming performance at Isfahan's city center, Iran, despite not being very refined.
- Daf-playing Zoroastrians celebrate the Pomegranate Festival in Mobarakeh Village, Taft County, Yazd, Iran.
- Jorja Smith's moving performance of "Don't Watch Me Cry" on Stephen Colbert's late-night show.
(4) IBM's US supercomputers take the top 2 spots on the latest list of the world's top-500 supercomputers. Five of the top-10 entries are from the US, but China extends its presence on the list. In way of comparison, last November's list included two Chinese supercomputers at the top, followed by Swiss and Japanese machines, with the United States' first appearance being at the 5th spot.
(5) Final thought for the day: "Small, scared people hate, self-hating people hate, bullied and betrayed people hate, as though hate will make them large and safe and strong." ~ Nancy Gibbs, writing in Time magazine, issue of November 12, 2018, carrying the cover feature "Beyond Hate" [Cover image]

2018/11/16 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Jean-Leon Gerome's famous 1877 painting 'The Carpet Merchants' Jean-Leon Gerome's painting, 'The Whirling Dervishes' Jean-Leon Gerome's painting, 'The Blue Mosque' (1) Three magical paintings by Jean-Leon Gerome (cropped into square format): [Left] A Persian Carpet being admired in Cairo: "The Carpet Merchants" [Center] "The Whirling Dervishes" [Right] "The Blue Mosque"
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- November 16: Happy International Day for Tolerance! [Logo]
- California fires: More than 60 are dead and ~600 are still missing. Utilities scrutinized for fire cause.
- MBS ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, CIA has concluded.
- Facebook hired a firm to attack Soros and other critics: Zuckerberg and Sandberg claim they didn't know.
- Orange County becomes Blue County: Republicans lose a CA enclave won over for the party by Reaganites.
- Iran says it will step up to fill the void created by US assets based in Italy being sent to fight ISIS.
- Japan follows Trump's appointments strategy: Its cybersecurity minister has never used a computer!
- One year after the 7.5 quake in northwestern Iran, people are still living in precarious conditions. [Cartoon]
Impossible object, made of Lego blocks (3) On social paradoxes: Paradoxes and impossibility results in mathematics have counterparts in social sciences. The paradox of freedom, formulated by Karl Popper in 1945, goes like this: "Freedom, in the sense of absence of any constraining control, must lead to very great restraint, since it makes the bully free to enslave the meek." The paradox of tolerance is similar: "Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance." The restraint that goes with freedom is being put to the test as I write this note. Social media are banning certain users for abusive behavior, despite US Internet Legislation Section 230 categorizing such media as "platforms," which are immune from liability for the content they publish.
(4) This week's Santa Barbara Independent has a fascinating cover story about our city's history. Photos show: The 700 block of State Street, ca. 1883; SB Mission, 1880s: Navigational error causing 7 US Navy destroyers running aground, Sept. 8, 1923; Hotel Californian, after the earthquake of June 29, 1925.
(5) Anti-Semitism: Drunk man shouts "Heil Hitler, Heil Trump" during a performance of "Fiddler on the Roof" in Baltimore. He must be a leftist or undocumented immigrant, set to tarnish Trump and his administration!
(6) Concert at UCSB's Campbell Hall tonight: The musical program by the Estonian Chamber Choir, viewed by some as the finest in the world, and Tallinn Chamber Orchestra was a component of Estonia 100, celebrating the 100th anniversary of Estonia's independence from the Russian Empire. [Promotional video for the Choir]

2018/11/15 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet. Cover image of 'Catching Fire: Hunger Games, Book 2'
(1) Book review: Collins, Susanne, Catching Fire: Hunger Games, Book 2, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Carolyn McCormick, Scholastic Audio, 2009.
[My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This book is the second volume in the "Hunger Games" trilogy. Having seen the first two parts of the series as 2012 movies, I decided to also check out the second part in book form, which I liked much better. The third volume in the series was released as a 2-part movie in 2014 and 2015.
Victors of the 74th Hunger Games, Catniss Everdeen (played in the movie version by Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta Mellark, are sent on a Victors Tour to quell uprisings in the districts, attributed to Everdeen's actions (not killing Mellark, as required by the Games' single-victor rule), which were widely viewed as defiance against the Capitol and President Snow. Soon thereafter, word arrives that the victors' lifetime exemption from further participation in the gladiator-like fighting competition has been revoked and that the Games' 75th edition will in fact feature only previous victors, a kind of Celebrity Hunger Games, if you will.
Action-packed stories generally do not translate well to the screen. Some elements of the action scenes are enhanced by visuals, but these visuals are often overdone and come across as even less realistic than the books' versions. There is something to be said about a reader reconstructing and visualizing a scene and the action in it from the author's detailed description, and Collins does a great job of putting the reader in the middle of the action.
As a "young adult" title, the story of Catching Fire isn't subtle or sophisticated. There are a few surprises along the way, but events are, by and large, rather predictable. It was an enjoyable summer read for me, but I will likely not pursue the third book in the series, or its 2-part film version.
(2) Iranians from all walks of life sing "Morgh-e Sahar," an old favorite, while flashing messages of love to the self-exiled popular singer Mohammad-Reza Shajarian.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- California wildfires have claimed 50 lives as of 11/14: Rampant looting has been reported in affected areas.
- Decision time for Democrats who want to enter the 2020 presidential race is fast approaching!
- Iranian folk music: Wonderful multi-lingual song, likely from southeastern Iran.
- What would you do if the glass surface of a pedestrian bridge cracked under your feet as you crossed?
(4) A Twitter account, set up by fans of Prince Babak Qajar, tweets (in Persian) about his right to form a government should monarchy return to Iran, because the "fake prince" (that is, Reza Pahlavi) comes from a dynasty which assumed power illegitimately. I am just reporting this discovery of mine, without suggesting that the claim is anything but an attempt at humor/entertainment. [Tweet images]
(5) Machine learning should move into the computer science undergraduate curricula: Traditionally, the focus of CS education has been precision and full control of algorithms (e.g., via a small number of well-understood parameters). AI has necessitated a change in this attitude. Machine learning brings with it a much larger number of poorly-understood parameters to our computational processes, thereby making logical proofs of correctness all but impossible. Instead of correctness proof, computer scientists must learn to deal with statistical demonstration of effectiveness.

2018/11/14 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Botanic gardens in Karaj, near Tehran, Iran, photo 1 Botanic gardens in Karaj, near Tehran, Iran, photo 2 Botanic gardens in Karaj, near Tehran, Iran, photo 3 Botanic gardens in Karaj, near Tehran, Iran, photo 4 Botanic gardens in Karaj, near Tehran, Iran, photo 6 Botanic gardens in Karaj, near Tehran, Iran, photo 5 (1) Colorful flowers, greenery, and a waterfall at the Botanic gardens in Karaj, near Tehran, Iran.
(2) Sharing my brief technical bio in Persian, prepared for a special commemorative album being compiled by the Alumni Association to honor the graduates of 50 years ago at College of Engineering, University of Tehran (pish-kesvataan-e daaneshkadeh-ye Fanni). [Includes 5-decades-old and recent photos]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- NYer cartoon: "Say what you will about 2018, I haven't been kept awake at night by the same fear twice."
- Tech and AI can help with early detection of fires and predtiction of the way they might spread.
- Quote: "Accuse the other side of that which you are guilty." ~ Jospeh Goebbels, Nazi Propaganda Minister
- One of the most remarkable magic acts I have ever seen: I know how he did it, but it still amazes me.
- I miss Trump's daily updates on the status of the caravan of migrants!
- Today's World Music Series noon concert at UCSB featured UCSB's Gamelan Ensemble. [Photo] [Video]
(4) The snipping tool (Microsoft Windows tip): Sometimes, the easiest way to copy an image is from its displayed form on the screen. Windows has a "PrtSc" (print screen) command that captures the entire screen image, even if it extends over multiple monitors, which you can later copy into Paint or other apps. I have been doing this for ages, which required extra steps to crop the large image to get the part that I needed. A couple of days ago, I discovered the snipping tool (on Windows 10, you can type "snipping tool" into the Windows search box to locate the tool), which allows you to select particular screen areas to copy, saving much work.
(5) Misleading insurance commercials: Nearly all insurance commercials contain false or misleading claims, but three recent ones on TV ticked me off, because they take the deception to another level. One company claims that they will replace a totaled car, rather than pay the depreciated price (current value) of the car. But it does not mention that the insurance policy with replacement feature costs more. Another commercial tries to sell you on their "accident forgiveness" feature, again without any mention that policies with that forgiveness feature cost more. You are essentially paying the higher post-accident premium (pro-rated for risk) right now, so that your premium won't go up after an accident! A third, doomsday commercial says that a 500-year storm should occur once every 500 years, but we have had 26 of them over the past decade. This is like saying a birthday should occur once per year, but in our family alone, we have had two dozen birthdays already this year!

2018/11/13 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The human faces of California wildfires, photo 1 The human faces of California wildfires, photo 2 Iranian woman and girl wistfully watch from a nearby hill a soccer match played at a stadium from which they are banned (1) Newsworthy images: [Left and center] The human faces of California wildfires. [Right] Iranian woman and girl wistfully watch from a nearby hill a soccer match played at a stadium from which they are banned.
(2) Actress Kathleen Turner, 64, on sexism and ageism: "I got sent a screenplay once where the character was described as '37 but still attractive.' That pissed me off."
(3) An embarrassment of a President: Confusing the Balkans and the Baltics, Trump has blamed the leaders of Baltic states in northern Europe, on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea, for starting the war in southeastern Europe's the Balkans, which encompasses Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Serbia.
(4) Accelerated evolution: Under poaching pressure, elephants are evolving to lose their tusks, because not having tusks increases their survival probability. [Source: National Geographic]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen will likely be the next Trump cabinet member to be fired.
- Kyrsten Sinema becomes the first Democrat to win an Arizona US Senate seat in 30 years.
- Death toll from California wildfires, now standing at 50, is expected to rise further, as scores are still missing.
- New York City and northern Virginia chosen to split Amazon's second headquarters.
- A very rare horizontal lightning bolt. [Photo]
- More photos of the devastation in California's northern and southern fires. [Newsweek's pictorial report]
(6) US higher education: Number of international students continues to fall under Trump, raising questions about the long-term impact of his presidency on the prosperity of high-tech and other industries.
(7) What US Presidents said when their party lost the House in midterm elections.
Bill Clinton (1994): Said they were held "accountable."
George W. Bush (2006): Called it a "thumping."
Barack Obama (2010): Called it a "shellacking."
Donald Trump (2018): Called it a "tremendous success."
(8) President of Pasadena Firefighters Association responds to Trump's blaming forest mismanagement for the devastating California wildfires. [Tweet image]
(9) [Final thought for the day] The power of nukes: Russia wouldn't be considered a world power without its nukes. Its economy is ranked 11th worldwide. California would be 5th if ranked among world countries. Without its nuclear threat, North Korea would be mentioned in world news at most once or twice per year!

2018/11/12 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Rain never stops a true leader from performing his/her duties. A very traditional Diwali celebration, with selfie and all! Trump is all smiles upon meeting Putin in Paris (1) Newsworthy images: [Left] Rain never stops a true leader from performing his/her duties. [Center] A very traditional Diwali celebration, with selfie and all! [Right] A picture is worth a thousand words: Which world leader is most excited to see Putin in Paris?
(2) NASA plans to use robots to create rocket fuel on Mars: Shipping 1 kg of anything to Mars requires 225 kg of rocket fuel, so it makes sense to try to manufacture on Mars anything that can be created there. Water, oxygen, and fuel are among the stuff that scientists believe can be produced on Mars.
(3) China reveals that two of its TV anchors are AI-driven robots: Text of the news is fed into the human-like anchors and they read it out, with no need for breaks, food, or sleep.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Death toll in California wildfires continues to rise: It now stands at 31, with hundreds still missing.
- Bone-spurs Don and his pal Vladimir are missing in this march of solidarity along the Champs Elysees.
- The real Tom and Jerry! [1-minute video]
- Girl, who carried her abusive grandfather's baby, faces attempted abortion charges and 20 years in jail.
- Michelle Obama's highly-anticipated memoir, Becoming: Book excerpts
- A beautiful dance performance: Half classical and half belly dancing. [2-minute video]
(5) Regional special sections of CACM: Communications of the ACM has launched an inclusive feature to highlight what is happening in computing around the world. The first installment, in the November 2018 issue, covers China. Among observations in this 50-page special section (pp. 38-87) are China's aspirations to become the "Saudi Arabia of Data" and its ambitious long-term programs in emerging areas such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing. [Introduction and table of contents]
(6) Persian poetry: In this 9-minute video, a young man, who says he has two mullahs as grandparents, recites his humorous and stinging poem about Islamic clerics' ridiculous proclamations and actions.
(7) Ancient relic going to the electronics recycling bin: All three of my kids used this graphing calculator in high school. I got my first scientific calculator (a simple one, not a graphing one) for ~$50 from UCLA Bookstore in the early 1970s, shortly after it came out. It was the first electronic calculator to be pocket-size and affordable to students. We have come a long way in 45 years!

2018/11/11 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image for 'The President Is Missing' (1) Book review: Clinton, Bill and James Patterson (with ghostwriter David Ellis), The President Is Missing: A Novel, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Dennis Quaid and others, Hachette Audio, 2018.
[My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This cyber-crime novel piqued my interest, perhaps in part due to the extensive publicity preceding its release. While not a bad story, it is very much a Patterson novel, with its assembly-line production. Patterson releases a tad under one book per month, with his noteworthy books including Along Came a Spider, The Lake House, and the "Women's Murder Club" series. Clinton likely contributed insight into the workings of the president, his cabinet, and interactions with other entities, such as the Congress.
The plot entails a devastating computer virus that would plunge the US into "Dark Ages" by overwriting all active data files on Internet-connected platforms, which includes pretty much everything these days. A Harrison-Ford-like president is the kick-ass-fit and mentally-sharp protagonist (perhaps Clinton saw himself in the fictional president), who goes into hiding, as he struggles to stop the looming activation of the virus, while also trying to find out which of a handful of close aides is cooperating with the terrorists and/or hostile state responsible for the virus.
Descriptions of the virus, its likely effects, and potential countermeasures are rather laughable to a computer expert such as this reviewer. The virus is treated like a ticking bomb in action movies, which is invariably defused by the hero, as the timer is just a few ticks away from reaching zero.
All in all, not a bad read, but utterly forgettable!
(2) Special Veterans' Day event in Santa Barbara: Entitled "1918: An Immersive Multimedia Experience," the Saturday-Sunday 11/10-11, 2018, event at the El Presidio historic park is a video-projection installation (with imagery from the US National Archives) honoring Veterans' Day and the signing of the Armistice of November 11, 1918, which ended World War I. A very happy Veterans' Day to all!
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Death toll in California wildfires rises to 23: High winds hamper efforts to control all three major fires.
- The boss shows his satisfaction: Putin flashes 'thumbs up' to Trump before shaking his hand in Paris. [Photo]
- With Putin also nearby, Macron tells Trump to his face that nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism.
- When will Trump toughen libel laws, as promised, so reporters whom he calls stupid and racist can sue him?
(4) Two magical events tonight, 2018/11/11: The first one was a sobering visual presentation at Santa Barbara's historic El Presidio to honor Veterans' Day as well as the 100th anniversary of signing of the Armistice Treaty of November 11, 1918, to end World War I [Photos] [Video 1] [Video 2]. The second one was a concert, "Montage: A Celebration of Genres," featuring an eclectic program and directed by UCSB Music Department's incomparable, world-renowned flutist, Professor Jill Felber [Program] [Photos 1] [Photos 2].

2018/11/10 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) California fires, up close and from space: Camp Fire, already the most destructive in California history, kills 9 (dozens still missing) and destroys nearly 7000 structures in the town of Paradise. The center panel in the bottom row of images shows Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu, as extensive evacuations were ordered. SoCal areas experience Internet and TV outages due to fire-damaged equipment. Thousand Oaks, a community devastated by mass shooting a few days ago, is now facing devastation by fire.
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- A house-size asteroid, 2018 VX1, flies past our Earth today at a distance closer than the moon.
- American press, unite! What happens if the White House calls a press conference and no one shows up?
- J. K. Rowling's response to a Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweet with blatant lies and a doctored video.
- Oh, the irony: A source named "America Uncensored" calls for more White House press passes to be revoked!
- "Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength." ~ American philosopher Eric Hoffer [1898-1983]
(3) Anti-Semitic hate crimes in the US: According to a survey conducted by GBA Strategies, 72% of American Jews think that, by emboldening anti-Semites, Trump's comments and policies are "very" or "somewhat" responsible for attacks against Jews.
(4) Sexual harassment in engineering hurts the field, in addition to individuals: The US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have published a consensus study report titled "Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine." At more than 300 pages, the report makes many interesting observations and useful recommendations. Sexual harassment hurts the women victims, to state the obvious, but it also damages entire disciplines by threatening to reverse the slow, but steady gains made in recruiting women to STEM fields.

2018/11/09 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Oldest known color photo of Tehran's Pahlavi Ave. (later renamed Vali-e-Asr) Art from scrap: Skull sculpture made of cans Catalina Island's 80-year-old airport runway, which is in poor shape, will be revamped by the US Marine Corps (1) Interesting images: [Left] Oldest known color photo of Tehran's Pahlavi Ave. (later renamed Vali-e-Asr). [Center] Art from scrap: Skull sculpture made of cans. [Right] Catalina Island's 80-year-old airport runway, which is in poor shape, will be revamped by the US Marine Corps.
(2) [I will take some flak for this, but here it is anyway!] Intellectual laziness: In this 6-minute fragment of a Persian-language lecture, the speaker (unknown to me) reminds Iranians that the country's problems require critical minds and 21st-century solutions. Invoking ancient personalities as keys to progress is regressive, regardless of whether it is Cyrus/Dariush, Zoroaster, or Rumi/Hafiz/Ferdowsi.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Massive wildfires rage in California: The 0%-contained Woolsey fire burns homes in Ventura County.
- Heavy smoke in Ventura, California, from nearby fires in Thousand Oaks and elsewhere. [Photo]
- The Borowitz Report (humor): "Trump unable to stop caravan of Democratic women invading Washington."
- Nintendo to suspend all video streaming services on Wii, including the Netflix Channel, in February 2019.
- DARPA plans on testing autonomous flight in Black-Hawk helicopters.
- Quote of the day: "I don't want prayers ... I want gun control." ~ Mother of Thousand Oaks shooting victim
(4) No planes for Iran: The state-owned COMAC (Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China) will not sell passenger planes to Iran. Fearing US retaliation, Moscow has also ruled out helping Iran with its fleet renewal plans.
(5) "Towards Hardware Cybersecurity": This was the title of a 2018/11/09 talk by Dr. Houman Homayoun (ECE, George Mason U.) at UCSB. Authenticity and integrity of data have traditionally been protected with security protocols at the software level, with the underlying hardware assumed to be secure and reliable. A steady rise in hardware complexity and increased attacks on hardware integrity have invalidated the latter assumption. Counterfeiting electronic components, inserting hardware trojans, and cloning integrated circuits are just a few of many malicious byproducts. Homayoun presented the concept of hybrid spin-transfer torque CMOS lookup-table-based design as a cost-effective countermeasure against physical reverse-engineering attacks. He then showed how the use of data at the hardware-architecture level, in combination with an effective ML-based predictor, helps protect systems against various classes of hardware vulnerability attacks. [Photos/slides]
[Side note: Young researchers sometimes err in their oral presentations by constructing their slides to impress, rather than to communicate. Putting too much information on one slide, and including too many slides in a presentation, that gives you virtually no chance to cover all of them, is counterproductive. A jam-packed slide, of which only 10-20% is actually covered, or that is flashed for only 3 seconds before moving on, is quite disorienting to the audience.]

2018/11/08 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cactus flowers, Batch 1: Purple Cactus flowers, Batch 2: Pink Cactus flowers, Batch 3: Orange (1) Beautiful cactus flowers: It's hard to imagine that the thorny, often ugly, plants produce such beauties!
(2) Horrific mass shooting by former US Marine at California bar claims 12 lives: This is way too close for comfort. I hope all my relatives and friends in the Thousand Oaks area are okay. Please don't wait for someone in your close circle to be affected before demanding sensible gun laws!
(3) Higher education will miss Claire McCaskill: The Senator, who lost her re-election bid on 11/6, made a big difference by putting campus sexual misconduct on the radar of Congress and the nation.
(4) Seven new scientists were elected to the US Congress on 11/6: The group includes an ocean expert, a nurse, a biochemist, and Nevada's Jacky Rosen, a computer programmer, who prevailed in the Senate race.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Today is the 2nd anniversary of the most horrific event for many of us. Hoping that things change by the 3rd!
- Man was arrested and charged with multiple terrorism-related offenses for threatening to kill CNN reporter.
- Perseverance always pays off: Failure isn't falling down; It's not getting back up. [3-minute video]
- A lively tune to brighten your day: "No Face, No Name, No Number" [4-minute video]
- Wonderful folk music and dance from Iran's Caspian-Sea region. [3-minute video]
- An Azeri song, beautifully performed with big-orchestra accompaniment. [3-minute video]
(6) "Self-Supervised Learning: Could Machines Learn Like Humans?": This was the title of a Thursday 11/08/2018 talk by Yann LeCun, Facebook's VP & Chief AI Scientist and Founding Director of the NYU Center for Data Science. UCSB's Corwin Pavilion, the venue for the 3:30 PM talk, was completely filled, with many attendees standing in the back or along the side walls of the room; highly unusual for a technical talk!
Thus far, machine learning has been by and large of the supervised variety, with human guidance and expertise used to train the AI algorithms. Even for fairly simple tasks, supervised learning requires a large number of labeled samples, making it practical only for certain tasks. Reinforcement learning requires many interactions with the environment.
Deep learning, which has brought about significant progress in computer perception, natural language understanding, and control, has also been of the supervised variety thus far, while animals and humans seem to learn much task-independent knowledge about how the world works through mere observation and occasional interactions. Learning new tasks or skills require very few samples or interactions: We learn to drive cars and fly planes in about 30 hours of practice.
What learning paradigm do humans and animal use to learn so efficiently? LeCun put forth the hypothesis that self-supervised learning of predictive world models is an essential missing ingredient of current approaches to AI. One could argue that prediction is the essence of intelligence. [Photos]

2018/11/07 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Diwali, the Hindu spiritual festival, aka the Festival of Lights (1) Happy Diwali, the Hindu spiritual festival, aka the Festival of Lights, that is used to offer prayers to Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, and to ritually observe the idea of knowledge over ignorance and good over evil.
(2) The slow-moving disaster near San Andreas Fault, where the big quake is expected: A muddy spring near California's Salton Sea, which had moved 60 feet over a few months, suddenly moved 60 feet in a single day.
(3) US midterm election results: The House will be controlled by Democrats (in what is characterized as a rainbow, rather then the projected blue, wave) and Republicans maintain control of the Senate. While this is only a small step toward neutralizing Trump, it constitutes a major improvement over the status quo. I choose to focus on the positive: The fact that Trump will face real oversight from one branch of the legislature. My advice to other Democrats is to cherish the advances and not to fret over the fact that Trumpians gained Senate seats, which makes one wonder how much damage a President has to do to lose control of the Congress!
(4) The women's wave: Women, of many persuasions and ethnic backgrounds, were elected yesterday at the national and state levels (legislatures, governorships, judgeships, etc.). The new House is projected to include 95 women (up from 84), and 13 new women will join the 10 women Senators who weren't up for re-election.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish conspiracy theories in Iran: An Iranwire report from June 2018.
- ADL honors journalist, filmmaker, and human rights activist Maziar Bahari with Daniel Pearl Award.
- Cyrus the Great (King Cyrus) Street in Jerusalem, Israel. [Photo of street sign]
- Pretending to investigate Khashoggi's death, agents actually removed evidence from the Saudi consulate.
- Why Bill Gates is advocating and funding research on reinventing the toilet.
- The just-opened Rockfire Grill in Isla Vista, on the path I walk between my home and UCSB office. [Photo]
- Quote of the day: "Data is the new oil." ~ British mathematician Clive Humby
- The Salt Martians performed bluegrass music today at noon, as part of UCSB's World Music Series.
(6) Post-election news: Trump threw a temper tantrum at a news conference after the midterm elections, lashing out at Republicans who lost, the Democrats, and the news media. Meanwhile, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a target of Trump's mean-spirited attacks for months, resigned at Trump's request.
(7) The pasta puzzle: Take an uncooked pasta noodle and bend it, until it breaks. Most likely, it won't break into just two pieces. If you strongly twist the noodle while bending it, it will likely snap into two pieces. Why?

2018/11/06 (tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The kids who voiced Peanuts characters in the 1960s India unveils the world's tallest statue: Known as the Statue of Unity, the 182-meter behemoth depicts the Indian national hero Vallabhbhai Patel A wonderful work of art that invites children to interact with it (1) The worlds of art and entertainment: [left] The kids who voiced Peanuts characters in the 1960s. [Center] India unveils the world's tallest statue: Known as the Statue of Unity, the 182-meter behemoth depicts the Indian national hero Vallabhbhai Patel. [Right] A wonderful work of art that invites children to interact with it.
(2) False sexual assault allegations are extremely rare: According to the National Registry of Exonerations, in the nearly 3 decades since 1989, only 52 men charged with sexual assault were exonerated due to being falsely accused; that's fewer than 2 per year. [Fact cited by Ariana Marmolejo in her opinion piece published in Daily Nexus, UCSB's student newspaper]
(3) A dynamic graph showing the world's top-10 countries in terms of GDP, 1960-2017. The US is always at the top, but other countries' relative GDPs grow/shrink and their ranks occasionally rearranged. [Video]
(4) The Iranian Parliament's law about Iran joining the international Terrorist Financing (Suppression) Convention has been rejected by the Guardian Council, for a long list of "problems" as well as violations of the country's constitution. [Documents in Persian]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and memes (US midterm elections edition).
- Rumors and hoaxes about voting and polling places are quite common on Election Day: Be vigilant!
- Vote as if your life depends upon it ... It just might!
- Cartoon of the day (about voting): "You are here. You should be here, your voting place." [Image]
- On the eve of the US Election Day, TV networks (including Fox) pull Trump's racist ad.
- Trump fans chant "4 More Years": Does this mean they want him impeached in the middle of his 2nd term?
- Barbra Streisand addresses Trump in a new song: "Don't Lie to Me"
(6) Motivational speech: Baluchi young woman talks about her life challenges, including recovering from life-altering injuries sustained in a car crash, getting out of an unhappy arranged marriage, and overcoming her fears. [6-minute video, with Persian subtitles]
(7) Intellectual laziness: In this 6-minute lecture fragment, the Persian speaker reminds Iranians that the country's problems require critical minds and 21st-century solutions. Invoking ancient personalities as keys to progress is regressive, regardless of whether it is Cyrus/Dariush, Zoroaster, or Rumi/Hafiz/Ferdowsi.

2018/11/04 (Sunday): A report from IEEE IEMCON conference, which I attended in Vancouver, Canada.
UBC's Student Nest Building's main lobby The pond at the center of UBC's main campus mall The entrance to conference facilities at UBC's Student Nest Building (1) Held November 1-3, 2018, on the Vancouver campus of the University of British Columbia, the 9th IEEE Information Technology, Electronics and Mobile Communication Conference featured many keynote lectures and parallel technical sessions in multiple tracks. The conference venue was UBC's Student Nest Building, seen in two of the photos above: The main lobby is on the left and the entrance to conference facilities on the right.
(2) I missed the first day of the conference due to arriving in Vancouver in the evening of 11/1. On the morning of the second day, after a buffet breakfast, the conference's technical program featured three research keynotes, with three more scheduled for the third day. The first day's keynotes were given by industry leaders. A list of research keynotes which I did attend on the final two days follows.
- Georgios Giannakis (U. Minnesota): "Online Learning and Management for Edge Computing In IOT"
- Sidney Fels (UBC): "Design for Human Experience and Expression at the HCT Laboratory"
- Nicolas A. F. Jaeger (UBC): "Silicon Photonics: Smaller, Cheaper, Faster"
- Vincent Wong (UBC): "Non-Orthogonal Multiple Access in 5G Wireless Networks"
- Shen-En Qian (Canadian Space Agency): "Satellite Observation for Coastal Ocean and Inland Waters"
- Behraad Bahreyni (Simon Fraser U.): "Vector Microsensors for Acoustic and Optical Signals"
(3) I took advantage of a time slot on 11/2, with no interesting conference sessions for me, to walk on the immense 56,000-student Vancouver campus of the University of British Columbia, including its mile-long Main Mall, photographing architectural landmarks and student life. Sandwiched between a rainy Thursday and expected rain on Saturday, the weather was nice, but a bit on the chilly side. [Photos]
(4) In a nice touch, the conference organizers, presented speakers with certificates of presentation.
(5) Data analytics workshop: I spent much of the 11/3 afternoon attending an interesting workshop, where fundamentals of data analytics and use of the two clustering/categorization tools, RapidMiner and WEKA, were discussed by Dr. Satyajit Chakrabarti. [Photos]
(6) Awards ceremony at the end of the conference: The Technical Program Committee was kind enough to honor two of my contributions with Best-Paper Awards in their respective conference tracks.
(7) Heading back home: After 35 minutes in the air from Vancouver to Seattle on a propeller plane and a 45-minute wait for the gate to free up, I barely had enough time to change terminals and make it to my Santa-Barbara-bound flight. Once at home, I was extremely grateful to have returned to California sunshine from a gloomy early-November Vancouver. I need the coming week to resume my teaching, make up for cancelled lectures, catch up with e-mail and other personal/professional commitments, and generally recover from a week-long absence for two conferences. Looking forward to the Veterans' Day observance holiday on Monday 11/12 and Thanksgiving weekend's family gatherings the following week!

2018/11/03 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon: 'Just tell me which part Obama wrote' Cartoon: The President in no way, form, or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence Moses is ordered to turn his caravan around, because it contains too many Middle Easterners! (1) Trump cartoons: [Left] "Just tell me which part Obama wrote." (from The New Yorker) [Center] "The President in no way, form, or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence." ~ Sarah Huckabee Sanders [Right] Moses is ordered to turn his caravan around, because it contains too many Middle Easterners!
(2) Grand Ayatollah Musa Shobairi Zanjani ordered to behave: Iran's Islamic regime doesn't just oppress Jews, Christians, Baha'is, and Sunni Muslims. It also squashes Shiite clergy criticizing the Supreme Leader.
(3) Trump's only worries about the hateful massacre of Jews and assassination attempts at leading Democrats? That the events stopped GOP's 'tremendous momentum'!
(4) Comedian Hasan Minhaj tells you all you need to know about Saudi Arabia: Great job, but I hope he never has a need to visit a Saudi consulate! [19-minute video]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Voting is just like driving: Choose "R" to go backward, "D" to go forward! [Meme]
- Yet another loco: Peace in the Middle East is impossible unless Jews and Muslims convert to Christianity.
- Pentagon rejects request to send troops to the border for what it considers a law-enforcement function.
- Traitor and super-spy Robert Hanssen was exposed by a KGB defector, a new book claims.
- Hit-and-run driver kills three Girl Scouts and an adult picking up highway trash in Wisconsin.
- Coalition of 46 scientists urges researchers to cite possible risks when sharing new AI technology.
- UCSB's ECE Department has 4 open academic positions, including 2 in computer engineering.
- "Your products are encroaching on my products." [Cartoon, from The New Yorker]
- These undated photos of melting polar ice are sobering nonetheless.
- An Iranian folk poem/song about wistfully remembering the simple pleasures of yore.
- Political commentary: The latest incarnation of Trump's southern border wall! [Credit: Stephen Colbert]
- Police report in Iran blames the Internet for women's increasing resistance to mandatory hijab laws.
(6) Catching up with a long-time friend: I was lucky enough to be able to connect with college classmate Farrokh Elmieh, dining together at Gilaneh Persian Restaurant during my last night in Vancouver, Canada.
(7) Final thought for the day: Know your voting rights: California law allows you to take up to 2 hours off from work on Election Day without a loss of pay.

2018/11/02 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Time magazine's cover for its November 5, 2018, double-issue features a large tri-fold photo of 245 participants (hunters, activists, teachers, police officers, parents, and children), who have told their gun stories in their own words (1) Time magazine's November 5, 2018, cover features a large tri-fold photo of 245 participants (hunters, activists, teachers, police officers, parents, and children), who have told their gun stories in their own words.
(2) On giving women more opportunities: Have you noticed that as male politicians, executives, entertainers, and TV anchors/hosts fall from grace for sexual misconduct, their female counterparts step up and fill the void admirably? Why weren't they given the opportunities in the first place?
(3) Saudi sisters whose bodies were found duct-taped together in NYC's Hudson River had stated they'd rather kill themselves than return to Saudi Arabia.
(4) Inadvertently dropped from the end of this Trump quote: "... as long they are male, white, straight, rich, Christian, and voted for me." [Grammar-challenged, as always!]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Bus plunges off bridge in China, killing 13+, after a woman who missed her stop fights with the driver.
- Donald Trump wants to play the macho tough guy and the fragile victim at the same time!
- Security concerns cited as US limits tech exports to Chinese chip-maker.
- Afghan villagers die or are maimed in large numbers by bomb explosions. [Photo, Time magazine, Nov. 5]
- Taking a page from Trump's playbook, Iran accuses BBC of hate speech, propaganda, and fake news.
- "You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
- The world record of stone-skipping, 88 skips, is nearly impossible to exceed. [12-minute video]
- Two rather unusual word puzzles that I worked on during my 11/01 flight from Santa Barbara to Seattle.
- Oldest intact shipwreck found off the coast of Bulgaria: The 75-ft Greek merchant ship is 2400 years old.
(6) The US Military has been groaning on the sidelines thus far, but when Trump starts pushing them around for political gain, tempers will flare. The Pentagon deems sending troops to the southern border a waste of tax-payers' money for political goals and also worries about the troops being caught between the asylum-seekers and American vigilantes.
(7) Bad sensor blamed for Soyuz rocket failure: The malfunctioning sensor, which signals the jettisoning of one of the four side boosters, caused the booster to collide with the rocket's second stage.

2018/11/01 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Anti-Semisism: Burning Stae of David (1) Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society: HIAS was founded to help Jews fleeing persecution resettle in Israel or the West. I know quite a few Jews who benefited from the services of HIAS, for which they are grateful. Later, HIAS broadened its mission to providing assistance to all refugees, not just Jews. Supporting HIAS was one of the "sins" of the members of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, for which they were gunned down by a human-like creature, whose failed masculinity (he wanted to become a pro wrestler, but had to settle for exotic dancer) led to his murderous rage.
(2) A large group of Iranian musicians and other celebrities sing the "Ey Iran" anthem, a de facto national anthem, given that the Islamic Republic's version is viewed by most as lacking legitimacy.
(3) Solidarity: Islamic Center of Pittsburgh has raised $70,000+ for synagogue attack victims and has offered security guards for their next service.
(4) Sharing a funny tweet from Aida Ahadiany: Uber has messaged me that if I use their offered discount three times until Sunday, the discount will be extended for another two weeks. They just don't get it that my problem isn't discounts; it's not having any place to go. [Persian tweet]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- [Humor] Welcome sign at a Saudi consulate: Come in peace, leave in pieces.
- Nature photography by Goli Tavakoli. [Photos]
- Persian music: Darya Dadvar performs "Strangers in the Night," for which she composed Persian lyrics.
- Azeri music: A wonderful song, with piano and vocals, by two unidentified women.
- Landslide in Italy: Perhaps the most devastating mud flow ever captured on video.
- Experience Beethoven's Fifth not just aurally but also visually through a very clever Line-Rider animation.
(6) Talk about spoilers! Russian scientist stabs a colleague for telling him the endings of books he wanted to read. I have to exercise more care in my book reviews!
(7) Dinesh D'Souza, the man who retweeted posts with the hashtags #burntheJews and #bringbackslavery, and who was recently pardoned by Trump, has been invited to speak at Stanford U. in January 2019.
(8) A new sink gadget: I first saw this gadget a few days ago at Starbucks in King City, California. Water comes out from its middle, soap dispenser is on the left, and a powerful blow-dryer on the right, all three operated by motion sensors. An excellent engineering solution to a daily need in public places.
(9) Jimmy Wales, the visionary man who started Wikipedia, the Internet's largest information source, is driven by his love for education, rather than fame or money. His name may not be as familiar as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, or Elon Musk today, but history will judge him as more influential.

2018/10/31 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Halloween-themed Trump cartoon 1 United against anti-Semitism logo Halloween-themed Trump cartoon 2 (1) Halloween 2018 and anti-Semistism: [Left and right] Halloween-themed Trump cartoons. [Center] United against anti-Semitism: "But his son-in-law is Jewish" no longer cuts it as a defense for a president who has unleashed forces of evil against Jews, not to mention Muslims, refugees, and many other persecuted groups.
(2) Rise in anti-Semitism in the US: According to ADL's CEO, after a decade of decline, anti-Semitic hate crimes increased 34% in 2016 and 57% in 2017. The numbers for 2018 so far are comparable to 2017. The data leaves no doubt that Trump is to blame. Meanwhile, Trump took the opportunity to bow to his NRA masters: The synagogue should have had an armed guard! There is no evidence that an armed guard would do anything other than increase the number of casualties by one.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Murder mystery: Saudi sisters' bodies found duct-taped together in NYC's Hudson River.
- A progressive Jewish group told Trump not to visit Pittsburgh until he fully denounces white nationalism.
- Today's Trump tweet about his Pittsburgh trip: Do you see any direct mention of the shooting victims?
- LA spooked out: Boston beat LA Dodgers 5-1 in game 5 to win the MLB championship series 4-1.
- In the crash of a Boeing 737 Indonesian airliner into the sea shortly after takeoff, 189 people died.
- Persian Music: There are many YouTube videos from Fatemeh Mehlaban, but they provide no info on her.
(4) Immigrant bashing continues: In what is considered to be his most drastic anti-immigrant step, Trump says he can, and intends to, end birthright citizenship with an executive order.
(5) Troops deployment to our southern border will cost an estimated $50 million: Campaign spending on behalf of the Republicans from our tax money, essentially!
(6) Attending 52nd Asilomar Conference on Signals, Systems, and Computers: Since the afternoon of Sunday 10/28, I have been at the beautiful Asilomar Conference Grounds (a National Park) in Pacific Grove, California. On Monday morning, I was scheduled to present a poster and a paper at a lecture session at the same time. I solved the dilemma by putting up my poster early, attaching a note to it that explained the problem to visitors, and running to the other session to give my talk, barely making it there in time. I joked that the conference organizing committee must have included a physicist who wanted to experiment with quantum teleportation! I walked along the beautiful Asilomar State Beach [Video 1] [Video 2] during Monday's lunch break. After conference sessions ended for me on Monday, I headed from Pacific Grove toward Monterey, stopping at and exploring the Lovers Point Park [Photos] [Video 1] [Video 2]. You can say I was feeling some love for myself! On Tuesday afternoon, I took advantage of a lull in conference sessions to take a stroll on Monterey's Cannery Row [Photos] [Selfies with statues in front of "After the Quake" novelty stoer] [Photos taken along Monterey's Cannery Row and on its Steinbeck Plaza]. On Steinbeck Plaza, a couple of super-talented teenagers performed Beatles songs [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3]. On the way back from Monterey to my hotel, I encountered quite a few deer on a residential street in Pacific Grove [Photos].

2018/10/29 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) The green lagoon: UCSB's campus lagoon looks green most of the time. The reason, as explained in the center photo above, is excessive growth of algae and submerged aquatic plants in the lagoon's warm, nutrient-rich water. I took all but the top-center aerial photo (which is from the Internet) in late October, 2018, as I walked to the Loma Pelona Conference Center for attending a talk.
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Some ideas for keeping foodstuff fresh: I learned a couple of new tricks from this 3-minute video!
- Cartoon of the day: "Cell" phone! [Image]
- Video joke of the day: Man's dream of superiority comes to an abrupt end! [1-minute video]
- Art created on apples and leaves: Simply awe-inspiring! [2-minute video]
- Dance with a dazzling lighted costume. [May be partially muted in some regions due to copyright issues.]
(3) Judeo-Arabic, the little-known language spoken by Jews across the Medieval Arab world: "Less known than Yiddish or Ladino, Judeo-Arabic was spoken by Jews from Iran to Spain, from Yemen to Syria. The 99-year-old doyen of Maimonides' tongue, says that during Golden Age of Islam, Jewish culture in Arab lands was 10 times greater than that of Ashkenazi Jewry."
(4) I will be attending two back-to-back conferences: The first, Asilomar Conference on Signals, Systems, and Computers, will be in Pacific Grove, CA, October 28-31, 2018. The second, IEEE Information Technology, Electronics & Mobile Communication Conference, will be in Vancouver, Canada, November 1-3, 2018. In case anyone is interested, I will be presenting a total of 5 papers at the two conferences, as shown in this list. You can find the full papers and presentations (in PDF and PPT formats) near the top of my publications list.

2018/10/27 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Extraordinary architecture and tilework from Iran: Example 1 Movie poster for 'A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night' Extraordinary architecture and tilework from Iran: Example 2 (1) Iran-related images: [Left and right] Examples of extraordinary architecture and tilework from Iran. [Center] Iranian movie screening at UCSB: The 2014 vampire movie "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night" (I was totally unaware of any Persian-language vampire film) will be shown at UCSB's Multicultural Center Theater, beginning at 6:00 PM on Wednesday, October 31, 2018. I will be attending two conferences the entire next week, but plan to be back in Santa Barbara on 10/31 evening only, so I may be able to go see the film.
(2) Best of Santa Barbara: Santa Barbara Independent publishes an annual issue (cover image) in which the best businesses in our area are highlighted based on reader opinions. The problem is that the categories are so narrow that most businesses end up being the best in some category. This reminds me of something a friend told me many years ago. According to him, Americans are so bent on being the best that they draw boundaries within which they reign supreme. Examples include the tallest building west of the Mississippi and the largest eye-surgery center between Los Angeles and San Jose.
(3) Iran's border control may refrain from stamping passports of travelers who are concerned that they may not be able to enter the US after visiting Iran: Israel has been doing this for decades to accommodate people from Islamic countries or those who plan to travel to Islamic countries and want no record of a visit to Israel.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Eleven dead in Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, where a gunman walked in shouting "all Jews must die."
- The Psychology of Hate: An interesting and timely read, in view of the recent hate-crime incidents.
- In a surprise development, China cuts Iran oil purchases ahead of US sanctions.
- Persian music, accompanied by a slide show depicting life in the Iran of yore and today. [5-minute video]
(5) College soccer: The blue/green rivalry between UCSB and Cal Poly SLO has produced many memorable games and some of the largest spectator crowds on both campuses. Tonight, the two teams faced each other at UCSB's nearly-filled Harder Stadium, with UCSB prevailing 2-0. UCSB could have scored a third goal in the final minute, but a great save by the Cal Poly goalie deflected the well-placed header.
Side note 1: I bought my ticket to the game on-line and headed to the stadium on foot, getting there at 6:50 for a game I thought would start at 7:00. Unbeknownst to me, the game had been moved to 5:00 PM with no notice. So, I watched only the final 15 minutes or so, which was still pretty exciting.
Side note 2: Returning home on foot via Isla Vista, I noticed heavy presence by the Isla Vista Foot Patrol officers on foot and on bicycles, as well as Santa Barbara County's patrol cars. The weekend before a Halloween falling on a weekday is sometimes wild and results in quite a few arrests of drunken out-of-towners.

2018/10/26 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Frankenstein's 200th anniversary: Mary Shelly's novel, written 200 years ago, created a new genre and has enjoyed a remarkable afterlife If the Pinocchio effect were real, Trump would look like this after 21 months in office! Photo of the van belonging to the suspect in the mailed pipe-bombs terror attack (1) Newsworthy images: [Left] Frankenstein's 200th anniversary: Mary Shelly's novel, written 200 years ago, created a new genre and has enjoyed a remarkable afterlife. UCSB Library is showcasing a number of books on Frankenstein for the occasion. [Center] If the Pinocchio effect were real, Trump would look like this after 21 months in office! [Right] Photo of the van belonging to the suspect in the mailed pipe-bombs terror attack.
(2) Prosecutor Seo Ji-hyun is credited with kick-starting the #MeToo movement in South Korea. [From Time magazine, issue of October 29, 2018]
(3) Khashoggi's murder puts the spotlight on Saudi money flowing to Harvard and MIT: Prostituting our most-revered institutions and sacrificing our founding principles for money. Way to go, America! [Facebook post]
(4) New study: The happiest married people are those who have ever had sex only with their spouse. [P.S.: As is common in the social sciences, there is probably a study somewhere that concludes just the opposite!]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Man arrested for mailing pipe-bomb packages to Donald Trump's critics: He is Cesar Sayoc, 56, of Davie, FL.
- Trump's main worry regarding pipe-bomb mailings? That the 'bomb stuff' can hurt Republicans in midterms.
- Iranian-American Abaseh Mirvali to head Santa Barbara's planned Museum of Contemporary Art.
- Wearable assistive robotics in the form of chair-less exoskeletons help workers at Hyundai's US plant.
- TU Wien and MIT develop machine-learning algorithm that can parallel-park a car using only 12 neurons.
- When the soccer ball just doesn't feel like going into the net, hitting all three goal posts within 2 seconds!
(6) Outrage over Megyn Kelly's comments: Kelly had said on TV that a person wearing a black face to impersonate Diana Ross, say, as part of a Halloween disguise/costume should not be criticized. I had a chat a couple of days ago with a friend who thought political correctness has been taken too far in this country and that Kelly did not intend to be mean or disrespectful; furthermore, she has apologized. I told my friend that if this is an isolated incident, it will soon be forgotten, but if Kelly had made other comments that were viewed as racist, then she should be held accountable for her overall record. Political correctness is a reaction to decades or even centuries of abuse and oppression, which has made certain groups overly sensitive to further abuse and disrespect. I cited the example of women who have been abused and held back for millennia, and are thus understandably wary of acts such as pinching and cat-calling, which, in the absence of the said context, might be viewed as lighthearted, rather than mean-spirited. If women were considered completely equal, there were no pay gap or glass ceiling for them, and their "no" answer was always interpreted as "no," they might have been much less sensitive to these issues. [Image]
[Update: NBC is apparently negotiating with Kelly to terminate her contract.]

2018/10/25 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Fall colors in Zonouz Village, northeast of Tabriz, Eastern Azerbaijan Province, Iran Believe it or not: A rectangular iceberg has recently broken off from the Larsen C ice shelf Automn in New York City's Central Park (1) Earth's wonderful nature: [Left] Fall colors in Zonouz Village, northeast of Tabriz, Eastern Azerbaijan Province, Iran. [Center] Believe it or not: A rectangular iceberg has recently broken off from the Larsen C ice shelf. [Right] Autumn in New York City's Central Park.
(2) Let the denials and deflections begin: Fox News host claims that the bomb scare was faked to make Trump look bad! Of course, no one's making Trump look bad more than Trump himself.
(3) The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) continued its strike across all 10 UC campuses today, citing the administration's not negotiating in good faith. [Video] [Photo]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Two people fall to their death from a popular overlook spot at California's Yosemite National Park.
- FBI arrests former Republican candidate for attempting to buy a lethal dose of a radioactive substance.
- The recent drop in the stock market has left the DJIA and S&P 500 in the negative territory for 2018. [Chart]
- Delightful little dancers: Some really awesome moves to brighten your day! [Video]
- Video joke of the day: The safest way to cross a super-busy street. [Video]
- Fantastic light show: Visual art projection on an an ancient stone tower. [Video]
(5) If bombs are sent to prominent Democrats, the media and socialists are to blame. If Republicans are harassed or shot at, it's the leftists' and media's fault.
(6) Tidbits from Chancellor Yang's report at today's meeting of UCSB Faculty Legislature:
- Last year, ~6700 students graduated from UCSB, bringing the total number of alumni to 210,000.
- This year, we recruited 5200 freshmen and 2500 transfer students, close to the 2/1 recently-mandated ratio.
- Non-residents account for 16% of our undergraduate student body; we are getting closer to the 18% cap.
- A classroom building with 2300 seats, centrally located on campus, is expected to be approved next month.
- Two consecutive issues of the journal Nature recently featured work by UCSB researchers on the cover.
- Where student live: 40% on campus; 40% Isla Vista; 20% nearly equally divided among SB/Goleta/other.
- US News and World Report ranked UCSB fifth among public universities; UCLA, Berkeley, Virginia, and Michigan occupy the top 4 spots. UC Irvine, UC Davis, and UCSD are also in the top 12.
(7) Screening of news films from archives (UCLA and U. South Carolina): Before the age of television, visual news footage was screened in movie theaters prior to the main feature. I remember watching many Movietone news clips in theaters in Iran. Tonight, at Pollock Theater, the audience was treated to a curated set of news clips from those days and a few from early TV days. The screening was part of the symposium "Rediscovering U.S. Newsfilm," being held at UCSB, October 25-27. [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3] [Video 4] [Video 5]

2018/10/24 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Alarming stats on the number of prisoners per 100,000 population: The US compared to some other countries America's team places first in the 2018 International Math Olympiad Cartoon of the day: 'Welcome to the Saudi consulate. How can we help you?' (1) Some newsworthy images: [Left] Alarming stats on the number of prisoners per 100,000 population: The US compared to some other countries. [Center] America's team places first in the 2018 International Math Olympiad: "Wait, where's the American team?" muttered Trump. [Right] Cartoon of the day: "Welcome to the Saudi consulate. How can we help you?"
(2) Bomb packages sent to CNN, the Obamas, the Clintons, and other former US officials have been intercepted and are being investigated. What do these targets have in common? They have all been vilified by Trump in one way or another ("lock her up"). So, even though Trump now talks about unity, he is directly responsible for these acts of terror.
(3) UCSB strikers disrupt education: Over my 30 years at UCSB, I had never seen classes that were in session disrupted by strikers, who usually just want their grievances heard through signs, marching, and chanting in areas away from classrooms. Today, my 10:00-11:30 AM class was disrupted twice by loud chants and beating of drums, as the strikers marched by, each time for about 5 minutes. I guess this is part of the new incivility brought about by the dysfunction in our national politics. [Photo taken from my classroom's window.]
(4) World Music Series noon concert: Santa Barbara High School students, with help from a few UCSB alumni, performed selections from the musical "In the Heights" at UCSB's Music Bowl. Pre-recorded music was used for the most part, because they could not bring their 9-piece band to campus. I am looking forward to the show's opening next week. [Video 1] [Video 2, a song entitled "96,000," which, interestingly enough, is about winning the lottery (not quite 1.5 billion though)!] [Video 3, a wonderful love song]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Theory of evolution approved by Arizona's Board of Education as part of new science standards.
- According to Harvard Business Review, more top-performing CEOs have engineering degrees than MBAs.
- Kurdish woman sings: "They say Persian is sweet as sugar, but to me, Kurdish is even sweeter"! [Video]
- Robot "testifies" in the British Parliament about future use of AI in classrooms.
- Comedian Jimmy Kimmel: Sarah Huckabee Sanders' tell-all book will be titled B.S., I Love You.
- This manual/mechanical water pump for extracting water from a well was quite common in my youth.
(6) Scientist of the Year: Computational biologist Bette Korber, known for her work on HIV, will be given the Scientist of the Year Award at the 2018 R&D 100 ceremony in November. The same event will also recognize the 2018 R&D 100 Award winners.
(7) Political humor: Trump condemned the sending of bomb packages to several prominent Democrats. Now, I am waiting for his next news conference where he will say "there are fine people on both sides"!

2018/10/23 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet. Only two weeks left to US Election Day: Please vote! Voting: Check!
Best election advice: Elect functioning adults (1) US midterm elections: [Left] Only two weeks left to US Election Day: Please vote! [Center] Voting: Check! [Right] Best election advice: Elect functioning adults. (Please let me where to find them!)
(2) Bird electric scooters have arrived in Isla Vista: I noticed them parked near major intersections and on busier streets a few days ago. For now, they are banned on UCSB's walkways and bike paths, which limits their usefulness as a transportation option for students. But discussions are ongoing with campus officials about the fate of these scooters, which are unlocked and managed from a smartphone app.
(3) Internet pioneer Dr. Leonard Kleinrock tells PC Magazine about the ARPANET precursor to today's Internet, how he got the geek bug and a full scholarship to MIT (where he developed the theory of packet switching as part of his PhD research), and UCLA's new Connection Lab, which will open in 2019, thanks to a $5M gift to honor his achievements.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Just one of Donald Trump's many lies to get votes: I will fight for LGBT freedoms and beliefs. [Tweet]
- Jared Kushner comes out of hiding and grants an interview on his relationship with MBS and other topics.
- Turkey says it has evidence Khashoggi's murder was premeditated, planned days in advance.
- Body-double is seen leaving the Saudi consulate in Ankara wearing Khashoggi's clothes, after he was killed.
- "Never before has a president been so determined not to be the president of all Americans." ~ Newsweek
- Director Oliver Stone's speech at the 2017 Writers Guild Awards, with Persian subtitles.
- When walls look like this, you know you are in the arts area of the campus!
- Humor: Democrats in Egypt egged the Jews to form a caravan of thousands and head to the land of Israel.
- Giant 200-meters-long sinkhole reveals enormous secret cave complex in Guangxi, China.
- NYer cartoon: "First you choose a protein, then some toppings, then you choose a Senator to publicly scold."
(5) "The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Cybersecurity": Computer Science Professor Giovanni Vigna spoke at Loma Pelona center on the UCSB Campus in the afternoon of Monday, October 22. The talk was part of UCSB's showcasing of its national prominence in cybersecurity research (under the direction of Professors Giovanni Vigna, Christopher Kruegel, and Dick Kemmerer) during National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. The talk's take-away was that even though cybersecurity will always remain an intrinsically human undertaking, much of the grunt work, data collection, and anomaly detection can be automated, so that human experts can focus on higher-level issues and more serious threats. [Images]

2018/10/21 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A helicopter installs a section of antenna mast of the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada, 1975 Poison cabinet disguised as a book, 17th century Chevrolet Impala ad, 1959 (1) History in pictures: [Left] A helicopter installs a section of antenna mast of the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada, 1975. [Center] Poison cabinet disguised as a book, 17th century. [Right] Chevrolet Impala ad, 1959.
(2) Nikki Haley's not-so-subtle jab at Donald Trump: "In our toxic political life, I've heard some people in both parties describe their opponents as enemies or evil. In America, our political opponents are not evil. In South Sudan, where rape is routinely used as a weapon of war, that is evil. In Syria, where the dictator uses chemical weapons to murder innocent children, that is evil. In North Korea, where American student Otto Warmbier was tortured to death, that was evil. In the last two years, I've seen true evil. We have some serious political differences here at home. But our opponents are not evil, they're just our opponents."
(3) A snag on the path to colonizing Mars: People and devices must be shielded against harmful solar and cosmic radiation, whose levels are much higher on Mars than on Earth, which has an atmospheric shield. But using an aluminum shield, which needs to be at least 7 mm thick, is impractical, as it imposes unrealistic load on spacecraft. A new radiation-shielding system that uses high-voltage electric cables to generate an electromagnetic field to protect modular colonies is being evaluated for use on Mars.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- John Bolton is taking us toward war with Iran and other adversaries. John Kelly apparently opposes him.
- Hot off the press: The Art If the Deal: New Presidential Edition. [Cartoon]
- Cartoon of the day: The recently completed Supreme Court of the United States of America. [Image]
- Saying: "When you're accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression."
- Quote: "The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge." ~ Bertrand Russell
- Another video in the "People Are Awesome" series. [Parts of the audio may be muted for some viewers]
(5) Report: I have put together a report on UCSB Iranian Studies Initiative's Fourth Annual Conference with the theme "Slavery and Sexual Labor in the Middle East & North Africa," held on October 19-20, 2018, at UCSB's Mosher Alumni House. Here are links to the report on Facebook, my Blog & Books page, and Twitter.
(6) [Final thought for the day] My message to a student, who is taking a leave of absence because of a hospitalized, terminally-ill father: "I am so sorry to hear about your family emergency. I hope you can take a leave of absence as planned and can spend some time with your dad. There are certain events we cannot control and, thus, we must be satisfied with expending the best effort to deal with them. Wishing you the patience and resolve to deal with the inevitable loss." [Sharing this message, because most of us have to deal with terminally ill loved ones in the course of our lives. When people work or study under us, we must show compassion as fellow human-beings, rather then deal with the problem administratively.]

2018/10/20 (Saturday): Fourth Annual Conference of UCSB's Iranian Studies Initiative:
Poster for the Fourth Annual Conference of UCSB's Iranian Studies Initiative Held on October 19-20, 2018, at UCSB's Mosher Alumni House, the Fourth Annual Conference of the Iranian Studies Initiative, with multiple institutional and individual sponsors, was entitled "Slavery and Sexual Labor in the Middle East & North Africa." The program and my notes follow. These notes do not replace the abstracts, which are found on the conference's program Web page, but are meant to reflect my own take-aways from each presentation, where I could pay attention and understood the key points. I also include here some photos from the conference and the UCSB campus. Here are direct links to this report and its Facebook version for sharing.
Friday morning, October 19, 2018
[8:45-9:00] Coffee and tea
[9:00-9:15] Opening: Eric Massie (Conference Organizer, UCSB); Manoutchehr Eskandari-Qajar (Director, Middle East Studies Program, Santa Barbara City College); Janet Afary (Director, Iranian Studies Initiative, UCSB)
[9:15-9:30] Welcome by Dean John Majewski (Michael Douglas Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts, UCSB): Besides welcoming the attendees on behalf of the UCSB administration, Dean Majewski talked about his own research (Civil War, economics of slavery) that intersected with the theme of the conference. He praised the conference organizers for their triple achievement: Merging the discussion of slave labor with sexual exploitation, which is more than just forced labor of a certain kind; Bringing together work from the humanities and social sciences and enriching the discussion with a photo exhibit; Shining a light on the contemporary plight of Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi women, as well as exploitation of children, in the Persian Gulf region.
[9:30-10:45] Panel 1: Intimates and Familiars: Marriage, Slaves, and Family
Chair: Behnaz Mirzai (Dept. History, Brock U., Canada)
Eric Massie (UCSB), "The Bonds that Bind: Slavery and Familial Relations in the Persian Gulf, 19th and 20th Centuries": Massie drew from 1920s records on ~1000 slaves, compiled in south Iran by British consular officers, to paint a picture of slavery and its management structures, including the use of slaves for reproduction, in the Persian Gulf region. The data can be said to also cover the late 1800s, given that some of the slaves in question were quite old when cataloged. Massie shows that, as international treaties banned the importation of slaves, owners resorted to slave reproduction within their households in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Manoutchehr Eskandari-Qajar (SBCC), "Temporary and Permanent Marriages at the Court of Fath Ali Shah Qajar": Eskandari-Qajar, a descendant of his subject (Fath Ali Shah), asked for considering the nuances of slavery and associated temporary marriages, although he took pains to explain that he is not an apologist for either. He went on to assert that temporary marriages in 19th-century Iran, particularly in the royal court, should not be criticized on the basis of today's norms.
Anthony A. Lee (UCLA), "Ziba Khanum of Yazd: An Enslaved African Woman in Nineteenth-Century Iran": Lee began by relating that most Iranians are surprised to learn about slavery, particularly the presence of African slaves, in Iran. The demand in the 19th century was primarily for female slaves, as domestic servants for the rich, and for eunuchs. Male slaves to work in the pearl-diving industry came later in the 20th century. The story of Ziba Khanum, a slave who gave birth to a son who later became rich and successful, is a previously undocumented case study for slavery in Iran. Here, we see a slave who was "um walid" (with child from her master) whose son did not inherit from the slavemaster/father, even though the master did recognize the child as his son. Instead, the son moved out, joined the Baha'i community in Palestine, became a wealthy merchant, and enabled his mother to move out.
Discussion: The distinction between field slaves and domestic slaves came up, as being applicable everywhere and not just in Iran and other parts of the Middle East. The latter type enjoyed higher status, often becoming sexual partners of their masters or the masters' children. It was also pointed out that talking about "domestic slaves" may sugar-coat a practice that is just as exploitative as other kinds of slavery.
Ladan Rahbari (U. Ghent, Belgium), "All the King's Slaves: Vulnerability and Sexual Captivity during the Safavid Period" [Rahbari was not in attendance due to visa problems, but her written paper was read by Eric Massie in the time allotted to Panel 2]: Ethnicity of slaves affected their status and rights. Dark-skinned slaves/eunuchs were trusted to be in the inner court, whereas lighter-skinned slaves were used to guard the outer court. Sometimes, free men were castrated and sold into slavery. People in debt were also enslaved at times as a way of repaying their debt.
[10:45-11:00] Coffee and tea
[11:00-11:45] Panel 2: Manumission and Murder: The Legal Boundaries of Slavery
Chair: Ahmad Atif Ahmad (Dept. Religious Studies, UCSB)
Ozgul Ozdemir (Stanford U.), "Murder in the Palace: The Trial of a Sudanese Eunuch and the Position of Enslaved Africans in the Ottoman Palace" [Ozdemir was not in attendance]
Ismail Warscheid (National Center for Scientific Research, France), "Saharan Qadis and their Proteges: Women, Orphans, Slaves in the Islamic Courts of Tuwat, Southern Algeria (1750-1850)": Much can be learned from Islamic legal documents and fatwas about the history of women and other marginalized groups in the Middle East and North Africa. Warscheid's field work in southern Algeria has revealed interesting dependencies and tensions between individual rights and authority structures.
[11:45-12:30] Panel 3: Prostitution and Erotic Performance in the Late Ottoman Empire
Chair: Juan Campo (Dept. Religious Studies, UCSB)
Orlin Sabev (Bulgarian Academy of Sciences), "Imperial Power and Non-Manageable Lust: Prostitution in Late Ottoman Society": Sabev observed that punishment for prostitution often entailed deportation and, less frequently, execution. People were told that prostitutes could be killed with impunity. Later, tightly managed brothels were allowed as a practical strategy for dealing with a problem that could not be eradicated.
Erik Blackthorne-O'Barr (Columbia U.), "Between the Street and the Stage: Erotic and Sexual Performance in Late Ottoman Istanbul": Sexual/Erotic performances were sometimes embedded inside more conventional acts, thereby giving them legitimacy. Certain low-brow, apolitical acts were exempted from censorship, because they were viewed as non-threatening to the nationalistic narrative.
[12:30-2:00] Lunch
Participants in Saturday morning's panel at UCSB's Iranian Studies Initiative Conference Friday afternoon, October 19, 2018
[2:00-2:30] Keynote lecture
Chair: Janet Afary (Director, Iranian Studies Initiative, UCSB)
Speaker: Joanna de Groot (Dept. History, U. York) "'Servitude'?, 'Slavery'?, 'Sexual Labor'?: Reflections on the Uses and Usefulness of these Terms for the Study of Iran and the Middle East": Notions of coercion, human trafficking, and commerce intersect with another set of notions, namely, family, marriage, the household, personal desire, and intimacy, in the field of sexual relations. Power relations, as reflected in class-, race-, and gender-based regimes of enslavement and subordination, play dominant roles in all aspects of sexual servitude/labor.
[2:30-3:30] Panel 4: Framing Slavery and Prostitution in Photography, Literature, and Film in Qajar Iran and Zanzibar
Chair: Anthony A. Lee (Dept. History, UCLA)
Pedram Khosronejad (Oklahoma State U.), "Photographs as Objects of Sexual Desire in Iran (1860s -1970s)": Khosronejad, who also curated a photo exhibit in which photography or video-recording was disallowed, described how the passion for photography developed among the Qajar royals and spread from there to the general public, leading to the establishment of several photographic studios. Today, we distinguish several categories of nude photos (erotic, nude art, pornography), although the boundaries are quite fuzzy. In the Qajar-era Iran, all nude photos were referred to as "sovar-e ghabiheh" (forbidden images). Nasser al-Din Shah personally photographed his harem women in various states of nudity. Some of these nude photos have become public, although this was likely not his intention.
Staci Gem Scheiwiller (California State U., Stanislaus), "Photography and Prostitution in Qajar Iran (1785- 1925)": Photography changed the face of prostitution in Qajar-era Iran, because it allowed common prostitutes to achieve fame and name recognition, becoming "visual celebrities." Nude photos were publicly traded, and nude photography was viewed as a kind of pimping. Safavid-era Isfahan had a surprisingly large number of prostitutes. Prostitution was rampant and largely unregulated in the Qajar era. Women were described through the dichotomy of public woman ("faahesheh") and private woman ("najeeb"), when public space was synonymous with male space. In a way, through their rebellious breaking of norms, sex workers foreshadowed the liberated modern Iranian women.
Emily O'Dell (Yale U.), "Memories of Slavery in Zanzibar Rendered in Literature, Testimonials, and Film": O'Dell, who has lived for several years in Oman, where slavery was a taboo topic for discussion until very recently, related that Doha, Qatar, now boasts a museum of slavery. Stories of slavery are preserved in photos, films, and novels. Not all such stories are accurate and, indeed, some are hotly contested. As an example, O'Dell cited "Africa Addio," a 1966 film (sometimes characterized as a "shockumentary") about the end of the colonial era in Africa, which includes footage of the Zanzibar Revolution and associated massacres.
[3:30-3:45] Coffee and tea
[3:45-4:45] Panel 5: Sex Traffic and Unfree Labor in the Contemporary Middle East (1)
Chair: Eileen Boris (Dept. Feminist Studies, UCSB)
Kathryn Hain (Independent Scholar), "The longue duree of Sex Slavery in the Muslim Mediterranean": The French expression "longue duree" is used in historical writing as a synonym for "the long term." Possession of a large numbers of slaves, particularly concubines and eunuchs, sometimes numbering in the hundreds or even thousands, was a status symbol among Muslim rulers and elites. The official end of royal harems came in the early 1900s, although the practice of owning slaves and sex workers did not completely disappear.
Sawsan Karimi (U. Bahrain), "Slavery and Colonialism: An Anthropological Review" [was not in attendance]
Sriyani Tidball (U. Nebraska-Lincoln), "Slavery of Sri Lankan Housemaids in the Middle East": Sri Lankan domestic and sex workers in the Persian Gulf region and several other Middle Eastern countries are exploited, in large part because the government of Sri Lanka isn't motivated to deal with the abuse. The reason is primarily economic, as such workers constitute one of the three pillars of the country's economy. In addition to being exploited overseas, such workers face harassment and hostility upon returning home.
Discussion: It was pointed out that one should not think that slave trade ended because the British outlawed it. In fact, after slavery was outlawed, slave trade increased substantially, expanding into Iran and other parts of the Middle East.
[4:45-5:00] Coffee and tea
[5:00-6:00] Panel 6: Sex Traffic and Unfree Labor in the Contemporary Middle East (2)
Chair: Alison Brysk (Dept. Global Studies)
Muhammad Ala Uddin (U. Chittagong, Bangladesh), "Slavery, Sex, and Remittance: Exploring the Plight of the Bangladeshi Women Migrants in the Middle East": The plight of Bangladeshi women is quite similar to those of Sri Lankan women, discussed in the previous talk. Some 70% of these women experience physical abuse and about 25% report sexual assault by their masters and the masters' relatives/friends. Many ended up returning home without pay, where they were further stigmatized by their own community, because they were assumed to have performed sexual labor while away.
Kevin Dupont (The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, Tufts U.), "A Life of Glitz and Horror: An Examination of Female Trafficking into the GCC States and the Levant" [GCC stands for "Gulf Cooperation Council"]: Sex workers, lured to the Persian Gulf region in search of opportunities and good pay, soon find out that such opportunities do not exist. Instead, they are trapped in forced sex and servitude. The extensive black market provides the monetary motive for traders, while the US and other countries avoid intervening in human security issues. Thus, the widespread abuse is very difficult to stop.
Martin Jorgensen (Aalborg U., Denmark), "A Few Bad Apples? UN Peacekeepers, Prostitution and Sexual Abuse in the Gaza Strip, Cairo and Beirut": The widespread abuse by UN peacekeeping force (in the late 1950s and 1960s) was exacerbated by alcohol use and a "boys will be boys" attitude on the part of higher-ups. UN blamed the sex workers and not the peacekeepers and seemed to be primarily worried about the VD epidemic, rather than the well-being of the local population. It essentially aimed to protect its workforce from women, not the other wary around. Similar conduct by international agencies continues to this day.
Discussion: Governments which are pro-active in negotiating working conditions and worker safety with the Persian Gulf states have been able to secure some measure of protection for their migrant workers. On another front, while the protection of female migrant workers is indeed quite important, male migrant workers face similar abuse, in much larger numbers. Although, it must be mentioned that men at least have a chance to spend time in groups outside working hours, whereas women are often confined to their masters' quarters even after hours. Child labor is also a serious problem.
[6:00-8:30] Dinner at the Faculty Club and Performance by UCSB's Middle East Ensemble
Poster for the 'Unveiling the Veiled' photo exhibition Saturday, October 20, 2018
Pedram Khosronejad (curator), "Unveiling the Veiled: Royal Consorts, Slaves and Prostitutes in Qajar Photographs"
Location: UCSB Room: Alumni Hall
Here are links, provided by Dr. Khosronejad, in lieu of the UCSB exhibit in which photography and video recording was disallowed. Photos and captions: Part 1, Part 2; Guardian interview
[9:30-10:30] Coffee and tea
Chair: Manoutchehr Eskandari-Qajar (Santa Barbara City College)
Speakers: Pedram Khosronejad (Oklahoma State U.); Houman M. Sarshar (Founder/Director of Kimia Foundation)
The photos in the exhibit, as well as the larger collection from which they were drawn, are private and were taken in natural settings. This is how Nasser al-Din Shah's wives and slaves dressed on a daily basis. Other than the poses, nothing else is staged. Only recently the existence of these photos, previously possessed by private collectors, has become public knowledge. There are a dozen or so researchers worldwide who study Qajar-era photography, doing so mostly in the historical context. Very few are looking at the social significance of these photos (women's status, slavery, sex).
Houman Sarshar, an independent scholar and founder of Kimia Foundation (which apparently does not have an on-line presence), related that he bought some 5000 Qajar-era photographs, now forming part of the Foundation's resources. The set includes complete albums that tell fascinating stories. A 2-volume book based on these photos is being published. Volume 1 will contain a definitive biography of Doust-Ali Khan Moayer al-Mamalek (Nezam al-Dowleh), a skilled photographer who kept in touch with other photographers around the world. Volume 2 will cover his architectural photos, among other things.
[10:30-12:00] Roundtable Discussion on the Exhibition
Chair: Janet Afary (Director, Iranian Studies Initiative, UCSB)
Speakers: Manoutchehr Eskandari-Qajar, Pedram Khosronejad, Houman M. Sarshar, Staci Gem Scheiwiller, Behnaz Mirzai, Anthony A. Lee, Joanna De Groot
Many different viewpoints about the photo collection and exhibit were expressed during the discussion. One view was that displaying nude photos of women, in many cases without the mention of any names, objectifies them, given that the average viewer may not think that there is a deeper narrative involved. A counterpoint view was that the women were called by different names in different settings, so their real names are unknown for the most part. Photo studios which owned nude photo collections sometimes assigned random names to the women, much like numbers, for identification purposes. A customer would go looking for photos of this or that woman. Such names were created solely for the purpose of male consumption and had nothing to do with the subject women's identities.
In these photos, we are looking at the women through the eyes of the king: What he wanted us to see or, perhaps, what he wanted to see himself. Whether the women were the king's permanent or temporary wives, they had prominent places in the court, thus making them different from European or Ottoman concubines. Anthony Lee argued that in depictions of slavery in the US, it would be inconceivable not to include names, even if given slave names, and other textual information that would provide context for the exhibited images. Absence of such data would be deemed a denigration of the voiceless subjects. Others argued that there exists substantial information about the lives of harem women and slaves of the Qajar era that should have been posted alongside the photos to provide context.
[12:30 PM] Janet Afary, Closing remarks

2018/10/19 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Are you ready to shift your complaints from the heat to the cold? (Cartoon from 'The New Yorker') Pumpkins, as we approach Halloween, Thanksgiving, and pumpkin-spice-latte season! Time magazine's cover photo, issue of October 22, 2018, warns that even when Trump is gone, Trumpism will linger on. (1) Cartoons: [Left] Are you ready to shift your complaints from the heat to the cold? (From: The New Yorker) [Center] Pumpkins, as we approach Halloween, Thanksgiving, and pumpkin-spice-latte season! [Right] Time magazine's cover photo of October 22, 2018, warns that even when Trump is gone, Trumpism will linger on.
(2) It seems that the US gave the Saudis just enough time to manufacture a story about Jamal Kashoggi's murder: He started a fight at the Saudi consulate in Ankara, which led to his death!
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- "Fingerprints" of 3D printers will facilitate tracing 3D-printed guns.
- Cartoon of the day: Nikki Haley, who helped gut the US image in the global community, is leaving. [Image]
- Second cartoon of the day: Tsunami of plastic trash. [Image]
- Iranian variety TV of yore: Fereydoun Farrokhzad is featured in this 10-minute video compilation.
(4) Image and video forensics: On Thursday, October 18, 2018, Dr. Hany Farid (Professor and Chair of Computer Science Department at Dartmouth) spoke in the SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind seminar series, under the title "Reining in Social-Media Abuses: From Fake News, to Extremism, and Child Exploitation." This is a very timely topic and Dr. Farid's research on the subject is first-rate. Among Dr. Farid's accomplishments, as Senior Adviser for the Counter Extremism Project, is the unveiling of a software tool for use by Internet and social-media companies to find and eliminate extremist content used to spread and incite violence and attacks.
Photos are compared via their signatures, using schemes such as MD5 hash, which count on identical photos producing identical or very similar signatures. In dealing with child pornography, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible with today's technology, to automatically identify images that constitute undesirable content. It is much easier, however, to stop redistribution, which is a significant fraction of images posted by those involved in child pornography. Given a database of previously identified pornographic images, one needs to compare signatures of new content with the signatures of images in the database, setting a match threshold for screening. PhotoDNA does a very good job in such matchings; its practical use has led to the elimination of more than 10 million images in 2017 alone.
Comparing videos is much harder than images, because of the large number of frames involved. However, given that video imagery does not change much from one frame to the next (especially in the typical terrorism-related videos, where one person stands and delivers a message), it is possible to remove much content by focusing on "key frames." Clearly, the key frames chosen from two different videos may not be the same, leading to different numerical sequences for two similar videos. A process similar to DNA sequence matching can be employed to establish the degree of similarity. Interestingly, such algorithms have been used successfully to compare encrypted videos directly.
We are now at a point that highly realistic fake videos can be produced by tools such as DeepFake, where a speaker says whatever we want him/her to say. The current scheme takes an actual video of the speaker and modifies the lip movements to match the new narrative, spoken by an impersonator. The way digital cameras and video recorders work, we can distinguish such modified elements, but there is a real arms race in progress between fakers and those whose mission is to detect fakery.
Unfortunately, social media companies lack incentives to stop the distribution of harmful content. For example, Facebook was told about violence against the Rohingya, largely fueled by social-media posts, but did nothing about it for a long time. There is a delicate balance between ensuring free speech and providing safety to users. Child pornography and beheadings are clearly wrong, but the boundary isn't so clear in every case. We need to work on finding a happy medium. It is quite telling that our tech industry protected copyright owners before it protected children! [Images]

2018/10/18 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet. Statue of John Lennon in Cuba Calligraphic rendering of a verse by Mowlavi (Rumi)
PhotoShopped or real image? That is the problem (1) Art/curiosities from around the world: [Left] Statue of John Lennon in Cuba. [Center] Calligraphic rendering of a verse by Mowlavi (Rumi). [Right] PhotoShopped or real image? That is the question! Can you explain?
(2) Parvin Bakhtiarnejad dead at 56: Here's the PDF file of the late women's-rights activist's third book, Tragedy of Silence: Honor Killings (in Persian), which she published on-line after Iran's Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance denied her a publication permit.
(3) Quote of the day: "Patience is not sitting and waiting, it is foreseeing. It is looking at the thorn and seeing the rose, looking at the night and seeing the day." ~ Shams Tabrizi
(4) Tweet of grammatically-challenged Trump parsed: He ends his tweet, gloating over the dismissal of Stormy Daniels' defamation lawsuit against him, while also insulting her looks, thus: "She knows nothing about me, a total con!" He is admitting that he is "a total con"!
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Misogyny/racism in full view: Top Republicans join President Trump in mocking Senator Elizabeth Warren.
- Republicans talk like Democrats on issues such as healthcare and #MeToo, at least until the midterms.
- Ayatollah Putin: "Aggressors against Russia will be destroyed and Russians will go to heaven as martyrs."
- If only our politicians were as enlightened as those on TV fiction: Nationalism isn't the same as patriotism.
- MIT's new AI college to train "bilingual" scientists, conversant in computing and another scientific field.
- Sad and joyous at the same time: Deprived children use their ingenuity to make up for lack of resources.
(6) Spotting fake videos is getting harder: It's a virtual arms race between fake-content creators and academics bent on exposing them. Computer scientist Siwei Lyu wrote a paper about how the unnatural eye-blinking rates of fake videos could be used for detection, and posted the paper on-line. Weeks later, fake-video software had evolved to remove the problem. [See my post of tomorrow about image and video forensics.]
(7) John Bolton and John Kelly get into a shouting match at the White House: Trump who witnessed at least part of the altercation feigns ignorance; Sarah Sanders blames the Democrats!
(8) [Final thought for the day] Judgment is just lazy thinking: When you see something new, your brain goes into overdrive until you identify it and assign a noun to it ("Oh, that's a fork"); you then relax and stop thinking. The same is true with regard to people ("Oh, that's a Latino/feminist/Republican"). Stoppage of thinking at this point makes you miss all the nuances.

2018/10/17 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Heart equation Einstein explained: Energy = More coffee (more even!) Schrodinger's cat (1) A few important equations explained: [Left] Heart equation. [Center] Energy = More coffee (more even!) [Right] Schrodinger's cat.
(2) Underground cities in Iran's Isfahan Province: The Koohpayeh underground city, located 4-16 meters deep, was apparently built as a war shelter. This one, in Kord-e-Olia village, is similar in layout and architecture to Rome's Catacombs.
(3) The early years of Donald Trump, the self-made billionaire: He started right away after being born, built an entrepreneurial lemonade stand at six, then had a successful paper route, an exclusive tree-house club for pals who could afford the fees, and a little help from the Tooth Fairy! [Five cartoons from The New Yorker]
(4) China's 'artificial moon' will replace street lamps in a very wide area on Earth. Russia experimented with, and ultimately failed in deploying, a similar system in the early 1990s. Much has changed since then, both in satellite technology and in our ability to finely control thousands of small mirrors for precision lighting.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Terrorism in Crimea: Lone 18-year-old kills 18 people by gun and bomb attack on a college campus.
- A man with that face, hair, and body should not insult women for their physical appearance!
- Beto O'Rourke attacks Ted Cruz during debate via referring to him by his Trump-given nickname.
- WP runs a new Jamal Khashoggi column in which he warns that Middle East governments silence the media.
- This is what a tsunami does to cars and everything else on its path of destruction. [Video]
- A Republican group invites Gavin McInnes, founder of the violent neo-fascist gang The Proud Boys, to speak.
(6) "White Right: Meeting the Enemy": This 60-minute film, screened tonight at UCSB's Multicultural Center Theater, tells the story of the daughter of a Pakistani immigrant who joins racist groups to try to understand their viewpoints and strategies. Quite informative and eye-opening!
(7) World Music Series: Today's noon concert at UCSB's Music Bowl featured the Santa-Barbara-based group Ewe Drums and Dance ("Ewe" is pronounced "eh-weh"). Ewe music, from certain regions of Africa, is explained in one of these photos. This 4-minute video shows a sample music/dance from today's performance.

2018/10/16 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Fall colors in Utah, USA Spring colors near Kermanshah, Kurdistan Province, Iran Summer fruits and vegetables on display in Tajrish Bazaar, north Tehran, Iran (1) Our beautiful Earth: [Left] Fall colors in Utah, USA. [Center] Spring colors near Kermanshah, Kurdistan Province, Iran. [Right] Summer fruits and vegetables on display in Tajrish Bazaar, north Tehran, Iran.
(2) Digital literacy: One of the most successful and widespread efforts to make the general public computer-literate was implemented in the former Soviet Union, when, beginning in 1985, ninth graders took a compulsory course entitled "Basics of Informatics and Computing Technology." At the time, very few Soviet households or even schools had personal computers, so programmable calculators, such as the Elektronika B3-34 filled in the void. [Source: IEEE Spectrum, issue of October 2018]
(3) A woman by any other name: Islamic Republic of Iran officials tend to refer to women as "baanovaan" (plural of "baanoo"). On the surface, "baanoo" appears to be more respectful than "zan" (similar to "lady" versus "woman"), but much sexism is hidden in the word and the way it is used.
(4) Whither computer-aided instruction? For much of the 20th century, people wanted to replace the chalkboard, the textbook, and the teacher with computers. What happened? [Opinion piece by Roderick N. Crooks (UC Irvine), "Critical Failure: Computer-Aided Instruction and the Fantasy of Information," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, Vol. 40, No. 2, 2018.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Saudis' latest defense: We did not intend to kill Kashoggi; we just wanted to kidnap him for interrogation!
- Colbert on Trump's comments re Senator Warren: Who cares? You sir! You're literally the only one!
- John Oliver's brilliant monologue on the relationship between Trump and Saudi Arabia. [18-minute video]
- Sign of the times: Haji Mohammad's shishlik, advertised on large high-tech display board in Iran.
- Quote of the day: "The true delight is in the finding out rather than in the knowing." ~ Isaac Asimov
(6) "Harlan County, USA": This classic and highly acclaimed 1976 documentary was screened at UCSB's Pollock Theater tonight. The film is about the struggles of coal-mining communities of Appalachia (including very active and vocal woman), which led to improvements in wages and mine-safety regulations. Director Barbara Kopple presents an intimate portrait of the communities, unions, protest organizers, and law-enforcement officers. A very interesting discussion between Betsy Taylor (Director of Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange Network) and moderator Alice O'Connor (History, UCSB) and audience Q&A followed the screening. Among the topics discussed were connections between the labor organization efforts depicted in the film and the Civil Rights Movement, as well as political corruption fed by the energy industry, which extended to both local/national politicians and labor-union leaders. [Photos] [Link to the full documentary on YouTube]
A few short clips I recorded at the screening: [Video clip 1] [Video clip 2] [Video clip 3] [Video clip 4]

2018/10/15 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A variation on Sudoku: Each row, column, and stream (connected set of circles) should contain all the numbers 1 to 6 Puzzle: Can you find the animal hidden in this drawing? Visual puzzle: Stare at the upper white dot in this image for a while. Then, stare at the lower white dot. Explain the faint red color you see on the lower right and the faint green color on the lower left (1) Some puzzles: [Left] A variation on Sudoku: Each row, column, and stream (connected set of circles) should contain all the numbers 1 to 6. [Center] Can you find the animal hidden in this drawing? [Right] Visual puzzle: Stare at the upper white dot in this image for a while. Then, stare at the lower white dot. Explain the faint red color you see on the lower right and the faint green color on the lower left.
(2) Our short attention span: We have already moved on past discussing Hurricane Michael, but Panama City residents continue to suffer from lack of water and electricity.
(3) Exa-ops (10^12 operations per second) barrier broken: Using climate data from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory on NVIDIA tensor cores built into Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Summit supercomputer, a team of computational scientists trained the DeepLabv3+ neural network to identify extreme weather patterns from high-resolution climate simulations. The computation achieved a sustained performance very close to the peak of 1.13 exa-ops, making it the fastest deep learning algorithm ever reported.
(4) Fake news: Trump's figure of $110 billion in military contracts, cited as an excuse for not getting tough with Saudi Arabia, is all smoke and mirrors. Defense industry experts indicate that there are only a bunch of "letters of intent" at this point; no contract has been signed.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Ford Motor company chairman cancels visit to Saudi investor conference over the Khashoggi disappearance.
- Bodies of 11 deceased infants were found in the ceiling of a shuttered funeral home in Detroit.
- An icon of American retail declares bankruptcy: The catalog sales model that Sears pioneered survives.
- Data mining exposes Russian Twitter-troll campaigns in the US, Germany, and France.
- Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen dead of lymphoma at 65.
(6) Are traffic lights headed for extinction? According to the cover feature of IEEE Spectrum, issue of October 2018, communicative cars of the future will negotiate intersections, without a need for traffic lights, cutting commute times by 1/3 in the process. Cars collectively controlling their own traffic may be an idea whose time has come. What about pedestrians and bicyclists? In the short term, they will be handled by special priority provisions. Longer-term solutions may involve everyone carrying a personal navigation device. [Cover image]
(7) Elektro the Moto-Man: This 1930s robot by Westinghouse talked via pre-recorded snippets and could do a few other things too. [Source: IEEE Spectrum, issue of October 2018]

2018/10/14 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Colorful tray of fruits and vegetables Fall colors, somewhere in the eastern United States Pomegranates of various colors, and persimmons (1) Our beautiful Earth (fall colors, somewhere in the eastern United States), and its bounty, including my two most-favorite fruits (appearing on the right), which happen to be in season now.
(2) Fiftieth anniversary of the North Hall Takeover: On October 14, 1968, a group of black students barricaded themselves in North Hall on the UCSB campus to protest unequal treatment and passive-aggressive racism they faced as Black athletes and as members of the campus community at large. A UCSB conference marks this act of civil disobedience, which brought attention not only to the circumstances of black students, but also to those of their fellow classmates who did not see themselves reflected in academia.
(3) Confessions of a map aficionado: I have multiple maps at my home and at my office. A couple of decades ago, before GPS and Google Maps took over, I had a thick stack of now-obsolete AAA folding maps at home and in my car. I have kept some of those as mementos. So, I found this Web site that gives you a zoomable map of all the buildings in the US quite interesting.
(4) The girl who may become the next Maryam Mirzakhani: Zahra Zavieh, an Iranian girl from Urmia, has earned a gold medal in the International Math Olympiad. The team from Iran finished second overall. On a friend's post of this story, someone commented "Good for Silicon Valley"!
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Eight members of an expedition are dead and another is missing after a snowstorm at Nepal's Mount Gurja.
- Defense Secretary James Mattis is a "sort of a Democrat" and may soon leave his post, according to Trump.
- Bodies of 11 deceased infants were found in the ceiling of a shuttered funeral home in Detroit.
- Ford Motor company chairman cancels visit to Saudi investor conference over the Khashoggi disappearance.
(6) Early Persian Printing and Typography in Europe: Interesting 19-minute lecture by Borna Izadpanah (PhD student of Professor Fiona G. E. Ross, a specialist on typography and graphic design at U. Reading, UK), delivered in September 2018, which I discovered based on feedback from a scholar, who commented on a draft of my forthcoming paper on computers and challenges of writing in Persian. I am pursuing this lecture and other information sources I have just discovered and will write about some of them as I learn more.
(7) Windy-afternoon stroll: After dining at Los Agaves in Goleta, my daughter and I walked home via the recently restored UCSB North Campus Open Space. The bridge behind us in this photo was built as part of the new trail, that goes over an extension of the Devereux Slough into the area formerly occupied by a golf course.
(8) Final thought for the day: Having made a post about the wonderful world of maps earlier today, I came across this humorous generic map of "every European city" and thought to share it too.

2018/10/13 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) Book review: Picoult, Jodi, Small Great Things: A Novel, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Audra McDonald (with Cassandra Campbell and Ari Fiakos), Random House Audio, 2016.
Cover image for Jody Picoult's 'Small Great Things' [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Picoult tackles the problem of racism in a thoughtful and engaging way. Her story shows the intersection of three lives, as main characters, and a few other people who work and live with them: Ruth, a middle-aged black nurse working at the labor and delivery unit of a hospital; Turk, a racist young man whose equally racist wife gives birth to a son at the hospital; and Kennedy (first name), a female public defender who represents Ruth when the couple pursues murder charges against her.
This is a great book from which to learn about the lives and outlooks of a diverse group of people. Each chapter is written from the vantage point of one of the main characters, with overlapping narratives showing how the same events may be interpreted in widely different ways by those experiencing or witnessing them.
Ruth is a conscientious and competent professional, but she carries the burden of years of oppression and injustice, swallowing her pride and trying hard to protect her son from a similar fate. She relates the difficulties inherent in her line of work, with its 12-hour shifts, as well as the additional hurdles she faces as a black person in a still-racist society.
Turk relates stories from his youth that shaped his world outlook and his involvement in White Supremacist and other race-based hate groups. He forces the hospital staff to ban Ruth from caring for, or even touching, his newborn, by threatening to cause a scene. When staff shortages during an emergency force Ruth to administer CPR to the newborn, who later dies, the stage is set for conflict.
Kennedy, the public defender, is so busy with her career and the heavy workload it entails that she does not have time to take care of herself, causing her mom to book a massage therapy session for her to prevent a gift certificate she had gotten from expiring. She disagrees with her client about the best defense strategy (whether or not to play the race card), which creates much tension, as the courtroom drama unfolds.
This is a well-researched and carefully constructed story that conveys the various dimensions of racism and how it affects the lives of Americans, as they go about their daily lives and when they hit crisis points.
(2) You have no doubt experienced or heard about horrible PowerPoint presentations: My Persian-speaking readers will have fun (vexation?) with this PPT slide!
(3) Today's double-celebration: We celebrated, with members of our extended family and a few friends, my older son's birthday and the 30th anniversary of my immediate family's arrival in Southern California (all 30 years at our current residence in Goleta) and my work at UCSB. [Photos] David Tovar, a super-talented local musician provided the entertainment; samples follow.
["Under the Boardwalk"] ["I Blessed the Day I Found You"] ["You Look Wonderful Tonight"] ["Peaceful Easy Feeling"] ["Ring of Fire"] [An instrumental piece]

2018/10/12 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet. Silencing women
Violence against women Glass ceiling in the worlds of literature and publishing, where women actually dominate (1) Red, white, and black: Interestingly, several articles I have came across recently all used the same color scheme in their illustrations. The articles were about silencing women (#MeToo, etc.), violence against women, and the glass ceiling, even in the worlds of literature and publishing, where women actually dominate.
(2) Trump is reluctant to impose sanctions on Saudi Arabia for a journalist's disappearance: Rich people get mere slaps on the wrist in our justice system. Internationally, too, rich countries literally get away with murder.
(3) Mystery memo raises concerns over the Chinese ties of Broadcom, which now wants to acquire Computer Associates Technologies, a company with sensitive contracts involving the US power grid and Pentagon.
(4) When an anti-science and anti-intellectual boor takes power and surrounds himself with other dolts, climate change becomes a Chinese hoax and Kanye West emerges as a presidential adviser. Please vote!
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Hurricane Michael's death toll will surely rise beyond the 14 so far, as the "war zone" search continues.
- Trees and structures are mangled by Hurricane Michael, a result of the Chinese "Global Warming" hoax.
- National Transportation Safety Board's preliminary report cites ineptitude/neglect in MA gas explosions.
- Another Facebook hack: Records of nearly 30 million users compromised and their data stolen.
- Encyclopedia of Big Data Technologies is on-line in full: The print version is expected in early 2019.
- My cousin Parviz Parhami was honored as a distinguished alumnus of U. Illinois in October 12 ceremonies.
(6) "It's a Scary Time for Boys": I had posted the song with this title before, but Jimmy Kimmel brought the singer/songwriter and a whole bunch of women and girls to his show to sing this version.
(7) Trump teaches his version of American history, with a nod to Brett Kavanaugh's drinking problem: When other generals failed, heavy-drinker Ulysses S. Grant defeated "the great general" Robert E. Lee.
(8) Quote of the day: "I'm a mother and a first lady, and I have much more important things to think about and to do." ~ Melania Trump, sidestepping a question about her husband's affairs
(9) Final thought for the day: The US is no longer on the top-20 list of the most democratic countries. Donald Trump is taking us towards his friends at #159 (Saudi Arabia) and #167 (North Korea). [Chart]

2018/10/11 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Iranian girl Girl from unknown region, 1 Girl from unknown region, 2 (1) Happy International Day of the Girl 2018: Hoping that someday, all the girls around the world will have much to smile about! [International Business Times report]
(2) UCSB's environmental leadership: Nearing completion on its ecological restoration of a former golf course, UCSB opens the first public trail at North Campus Open Space.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Aerial video shows Hurricane Michael's widespread destruction of Mexico Beach, Florida.
- "Her": A new song and music video against sexual misconduct and for believing the victims.
- Persian music: I have posted this song before, but this rendition is warm and heartfelt.
- A memorable rock-n-roll song, "I Saw Her Standing There," performed by the giants of rock-n-roll.
Cover image of Temple Grandin's 'Calling All Minds' (4) Book review: Grandin, Temple, Calling All Minds: How to Think and Create Like an Inventor, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Ann Richardson, Listening Library, 2018. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Mary Temple Grandin [1947-now], Professor of animal science at Colorado State University and consultant to the livestock industry on animal behavior, has been featured in several films, including one bearing her name (2010), "In the Woods" (2012), and "Speciesism: The Movie" (2013).
In this book, Grandin aims to inspire young readers to put down their phones and to pick up scissors, glue, milk cartons, and other tools/materials to build some of the things she herself worked on as a kid, relating her own experiences and challenges as she tried the projects. Some two-dozen projects, grouped into five sections (paper, wood, levers/pulleys, objects that fly, and optical illusions) are presented, along with descriptions of underlying inventions and patents. An accompanying PDF file includes drawings, photos, and images of patent applications.
As a spokesperson for autism, Grandin has given many seminars and talks, including this 20-minute TED talk, entitled "The World Needs All Kinds of Minds." She is not the best speaker, because, as she indicates in her talk, she is a visual, detail-oriented thinker and has trouble dealing with abstractions. But, it's still good to hear her views and learn about her success story.

2018/10/10 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Analog design depicting Donald Trump The new Canadian flag since Trump's election Digital design depicting Donald Trump (1) Graphic designs: Analog and digital Donald Trump, and the new Canadian flag since his election.
(2) Time magazine's October 15, 2018, report "50 Genius Companies" is an excellent read. I was particularly intrigued by: 23andMe (Unlocking DNA for all); Agriprotein (Turning waste into feed); Apeel Sciences (Keeping fruit fresh); Impossible Foods (Artificial "meat"); Obvious (Algorithm-generated art)
(3) Panama City Beach, a town where my younger son lived for 3 years in the early 2010s, is torn to pieces by category-4 (almost 5) Hurricane Michael, the strongest storm ever to hit the Florida Panhandle. Unusually, the Hurricane was still category-3, way after moving inland to Georgia.
(4) Ranking of healthcare efficiency in world economies: Lighter shades of blue in this map are better. The US is unfortunately ranked very low. For the definition of efficiency and other details, see this Bloomberg report.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The Dow Jones Industrial average fell 832 points today in third worst day by points ever.
- US sanctions: Iran sends 200 tons of medicine and med supplies to Iraq, amid severe domestic shortages.
- Women are sending thank-you postcards to Kavanaugh accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
- US resident and WaPo reporter Jamal Khashoggi goes missing after visiting the Saudi Consulte in Turkey.
- Persian music: Female vocalist is accompanied by violin and traditional Iranian instruments. [Video]
- Persian music: A modern arrangement of the oldie "Bordi az Yaadam" (performed by Hooshmand Aghili).
- World Music Series: Today's noon concert at UCSB's Music Bowl featured Los Catanes Del Norte. [Video]
(6) "UCSB Reads" book for 2019: The just-announced selection is The Best We Could Do, an illustrated memoir, taking the form of a comic book, by Thi Bui.
(7) Cartoon from 2017: [Donald Trump, facing a bunch of people holding signs that say Trump is wrong on Iran, torture, Russia, the border wall, ... ] Trump: "Lying media!" Aide: "That's your cabinet ... " [Image]
(8) Musical response to the "It's a Scary Time for Boys": It has been a scary time for girls and women throughout the recorded history, so, my fellow men could surely bear the pressure, if there is indeed any pressure, for a few weeks or months! [Video]
(9) Final thought for the day: If sexual assault is such a horrible act that mere allegation of it "ruins a man's life," can you imagine what the act itself does to a woman's life?

2018/10/09 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Ignoring the fact that investigative methods and science can resolve the so-called 'he said, she said' cases Cartoon: Trump attacks Brett Kavanaugh's accusers Sweeping sexual assault allegations under the rug (1) On sexual assault: [Left] Ignoring the fact that investigative methods and science can resolve the so-called 'he said, she said' cases. [Center] Trump viciously attacks Brett Kavanaugh's accusers. [Right] Sweeping sexual assault allegations under the rug.
(2) India's Supreme Court rules that a biometric database containing fingerprints and eye scans of more than 1 billion citizens does not violate the right to privacy. [Source: Time magazine, issue of October 8, 2018]
(3) Quote of the day: "A book is not improved when it becomes a movie. A book is something that stimulates creativity in the reader. The movie—you have everything already." ~ Paulo Coelho, in Time magazine interview
(4) Call to action: The Kavanaugh confirmation hearing has energized the right, which is spending lavishly to defeat Senator Heidi Heitkamp, as punishment for her "no" vote. Keep your eye on the prize: Vote, and contribute to the extent you can.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The Trump agenda:   Ruin the Presidency. ✔   Ruin the Congress. ✔   Ruin the Supreme Court. ✔
- Hurricane Michael headed toward Panama City on the Florida Panhandle: The Carolinas also threatened.
- Couple arrested in Mexico with baby stroller full of human body parts may have killed up to 20 women.
- A call-to-action essay by Suzy Evans, lawyer, historian, author, and literary agent.
- For once, Trump apologizes: But it's to Brett Kavanaugh, on behalf of America!
- Hot off the press: New updated edition of Trump's The Art of the Deal. Cover cartoon]
- With their roles in transportation diminishing, donkeys are bred for their medicinally potent milk. [Video]
- Trevor Noah's monologue about Trump's claim that the most powerful men on Earth are being victimized.
(5) [Joke of the day] Sarah: "Whenever one door closes another one opens!" Jill: "That's nice, but until you fix it, I'm not buying this car."
(7) Tweeters are doing harm to the Persian language: Granted, there are certain technical terms that do not have (good or widely-accepted) Persian equivalents, but tweets such as this one are ridiculous!
(8) Iranian politics mirrors what's happening in the US: A female member of Iran's parliament has received death threats for voting "yes" on a bill that aims to curtail corruption, money-laundering, and support for domestic and international terrorism. [Persian tweet]
(9) Final thought for the day: A post claimed that Persian is the only language in which you can form a long sentence using verbs only. This 19-verb sentence isn't properly formed, but still fun to contemplate!

2018/10/08 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon: Lady Liberty laments over what happened to Lady Justice Photo: Stalling of women's rights progress The best defense is teaching girls to read (1) Women's rights: [Left] Lady Liberty laments over what happened to Lady Justice. [Center] Stalling of women's rights progress. [Right] The best defense is for girls to be educated about their rights.
(2) The cover image of a book about Iran piqued my interest: Will try to locate it. [The Iranian Metaphysicals: Explorations in Science, Islam, and the Uncanny, by Alireza Doostdar, Princeton University Press, 2018]
(3) ACM issues an updated edition of its Code of Ethics: All professional societies expect ethical behavior from their members and formalize these expectations in a Code. ACM's current Code consists of a preamble and the following four sections, followed by case studies.   1. General Ethical Principles   2. Professional Responsibilities   3. Professional Leadership Principles   4. Compliance with the Code
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Twenty (17 birthday-partying friends, the driver, and 2 pedestrians) killed in upstate NY limo crash.
- Teen girl executed in Iran, after killing her abusive husband, whose brother allegedly raped her.
- The misogynists ruling Saudi Arabia for 86 years and slated to rule for another decade, at least. [Chart]
- Why not repurpose Columbus day to celebrate immigrants? After all, Columbus was an immigrant.
- Preying on the elderly: Don't ever lose sight of your purse or wallet while shopping. [Video]
- Embroidering the beauty of nature. [Vido]
- Quote of the day: "Trump has changed 'We the People' to 'Me the President'." ~ Colin Powell
(5) Here are two problems I have assigned as parts of the first homework for my graduate-level course on fault-tolerant computing. They are useful to trigger some thinking about the moral responsibilities of an engineer. These are newly designed problems that will eventually appear in my textbook on the topic.
1.24. Risks of infrastructure deterioration: In September 2018, gas explosions rocked a vast area in northeastern Massachusetts, leading to the loss of one life, many injuries, and destruction of property. Investigations revealed that just before the explosions, pipe pressure was 12 times higher than the safe limit. Using Internet sources, write a one-page report on this incident, focusing on how/why pressure monitors, automatic shut-off mechanisms, and human oversight failed to prevent the disaster.
2.26. Risks of trusting the physics of sensors: Many safety-critical systems collect data from sensors for use in making their decisions. Read the paper [Fu18] and write a one-page summary for it, focusing on safety challenges that are unique to sensors (as opposed to general risks associated with trusting technology).
[Fu18] Fu, K. and W. Xu, "Risks of Trusting the Physics of Sensors," CACM, Vol. 61, No. 2, pp. 20-23, 2018.
(6) An elaborate academic sting operation: Three professors set out to expose shady publication practices by writing bogus "papers" and having them published in top academic journals. They point their criticism at liberal arts, but the problem is much more widespread. There have been multiple successful attempts to publish nonsensical science/engineering "papers," including a few that were generated by computer programs. What causes these hoaxes to pass through the peer review of the publication process is the publish-or-perish culture in academia that leads researchers to spend as little time as possible on service activities, such as refereeing papers. The little refereeing talent available is spread very thin by the proliferation of academic journals to accommodate the flood of papers, many of which have average readership in the single digits.

2018/10/07 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon of Lady Justice under assault Cover image of a book about hidden violence against women Self-portrait of a Yezidi woman who escaped her ISIS captors. (1) Violence against women dominated the news over the past week (Kavanaugh hearing, Nobel Peace Prize): [Left] Lady Justice under assault. [Center] Cover image of a book about hidden violence against women. [Right] Self-portrait of a Yazidi woman who escaped her ISIS captors.
(2) Nobel Prize: Normally, the Literature Prize would have been announced by now, with the Economics Prize coming next week. But the Nobel Committee was forced to postpone the Literature Prize, in view of sexual assault allegations by 18 women against French photographer Jean-Claude Arnault, 72, husband of Swedish Academy member Katarina Frostenson. He has already been sentenced to 2 years on one count of rape.
(3) Oil industry analyst warns that the global oil market is on a razor's edge: Strict enforcement of sanctions, or a regional crisis disrupting the supply, can easily lead to prices exceeding $100. If this happens, affected countries will blame the US for its bull-in-the-china-shop approach to economic policy.
(4) Brett Kavanaugh confirmed for lifetime Supreme Court appointment by 50-48 Senate vote: Will he be asking the other SCOTUS members upon arrival whether they like beer?
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Indonesia quake/tsunami death toll surpasses 1700, with more than 5000 still missing.
- Patrick Leahy explains the rush to confirm Kavanaugh, before additional damning evidence came out.
- Facebook fights overly-broad search warrants against anti-Trump activists, with no criminal allegation.
- An alert suburban bank teller exposes what would have been one of the biggest bank heists ever.
- [Humor] The US Supreme Court is planning a beer party to welcome Kavanaugh.
- Lady Gaga talks to Steven Colbert about "A Star Is Born" and surviving sexual assault. [Video]
- Anti-Semitism: Northern Virginia Jewish community center spray-painted with swastikas. [Photo]
- The life and work of a super-talented Iranian musician in exile: Sepideh Raissadat. [Video]
(6) Iran doesn't even let Baha'i corpses rest in peace: For 40 years, Baha'is have faced hostility and arbitrary arrests and imprisonments. Even their cemeteries are destroyed/bulldozed as a matter of course.
(7) Jonah Goldberg's lecture: Tonight, I attended an interesting and important lecture by Jonah Goldberg, Senior Editor of National Review and fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, who talked about his acclaimed and best-selling book, Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism and Identity Politics Is Destroying American Democracy. Speaking at UCSB's Campbell Hall, Goldberg warned (not that we need the warning, as we witness first-hand what is happening in the US) that, as the United States and other democracies surrender to populism, nationalism, and other forms of tribalism, they are in danger of losing the will to defend the values and institutions that sustain freedom and prosperity. According to Goldberg, a staunch conservative, who takes pains to explain that conservatism and the Republican Party are not the same thing, our Constitution and the values it espouses put us at the peak of a mountain and from that peak, every path leads downward. Democracy must be nurtured and taught in order to survive, as every baby is born with tribalism instincts pre-wired in his/her brain. There are a lot of other important points from the lecture that I could write about, but it would take me many pages. Do go hear him, or read his book, if you get a chance.

2018/10/06 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Time magazine cover image for its October 8, 2018, issue (1) With Time magazine's cover of the October 15, 2018, issue featuring the words of Dr. Blasey Ford going viral on the Internet (see my blog post of yesterday), the equally important October 8 cover got lost in the shuffle. It stresses the need to update the US Constitution to make women's rights explicit, rather than subject to interpretation.
(2) Nobel Peace Prize: Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad win the 2018 Prize for fighting sexual violence. Quoting from The Guardian about Dr. Mukwege: "With violence against women resurgent and the US president fueling misogyny, this man is an inspiration ... an extraordinary man who has risked everything to heal, cherish and honor women. It is a call to men across the planet to do the same." Murad relates how she reclaimed her life, after 7 members of her family were murdered and she became a sex slave to ISIS captors. Here is part of Murad's book, The Last Girl, with a foreword by Amal Clooney, who characterizes ISIS as "evil on an industrial scale." Hats off to this young woman, whose bravery stands in stark contrast to the cowardice of many of our politicians condoning acts and policies they know to be morally wrong, because they fear losing the next election!
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Too late? The American Bar Association reconsiders its opinion of Kavanaugh. [Letter]
- A new cell-phone app calls 911 automatically, if an accident knocks you out, away from help.
- [Humor] Denietol: A new med for men that helps erase unpleasant memories of sexual misconduct.
- Shadow-dancing to a decades-old song, which I remember from an Indian movie I saw in Iran. [Video]
- Riddle of the day: What gets dirtier after it is washed?
- Artists in Isfahan produce art from many different materials: Here is one who creates metallic carpets.
(4) Misogynistic headline: "Susan Collins Consents" is how The Wall Street Journal reports the latest development in the Brett Kavanaugh Senate confirmation saga.
(5) The out-of-touch old white men: Senate Judiciary Committee chair Grassley believes that his committee's workload is too heavy for women! These dinosaurs must be voted out and replaced with non-extinct species.
(6) The fig-leaf investigation: FBI's investigation of allegations against Kavanaugh was nothing but a fig leaf for the Republicans to cover themselves, but, with the very limited list of individuals the FBI was allowed to contact, the fig leaf turned out to be too small. They are still pretty much exposed!

2018/10/05 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The impact of sexual assault survivors' words: Time magazine cover image (1) Time magazine's October 15, 2018, cover image depicts the impact of sexual assault suvivors' words.
(2) Food waste: Some 40% of the food produced in the US is thrown out. Reducing this waste would take us a long way toward solving many of our problems, including hunger and pollution. [Video]
(3) Another mysterious death: A Russian Deputy Attorney General, thought to have directed attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, involved in the infamous Trump-Tower meeting and other plots abroad on behalf of Russia's government, has died in a helicopter crash.
(4) Is Thomas Edison in hell or in heaven? This question is addressed by an Iranian cleric. According to his reading of Islam, non-Muslims cannot go to heaven, but their suffering in hell may be reduced, in part or totally, by a record of good deeds! [Video]
(5) California man, 90, implicated in the death of his stepdaughter based on her Fitbit data: The fitness device showed a significant spike in heart rate at 3:20 PM, September 8, before rapidly slowing. Surveillance videos showed that the stepfather's car was parked in his stepdaughter's driveway from 3:12 PM to at least 3:33 PM.
(6) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Adding insult to injury, Trump claims that women sharing stories of sexual assault are paid professionals.
- A new character for Sesame Street: Time monster! [Cartoon]
- Life advice memes: Positivism and balance.
- Presidential alert: Donald Trump is still president. This is not a test. Action required! [Image]
(7) The president who embarrasses us on a daily basis: Trump makes a crowd laugh at Brett Kavanaugh's accuser. That crowd is no less embarrassing, although I did spot a few women among them who were not amused. Meanwhile, the Republicans seem to be competing in going lower. A Republican official has released a fake photo of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford as a teenager, implying that she was too ugly to be the target of a sexual assault! This would have been abhorrent even if the photo weren't fake.
(8) Nobel Prize: Half of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Arthur Ashkin, with the other half going to Gerard Mourou and Donna Strickland, only the third woman to win the award and the first one in more than half a century. The researchers' work on lasers was praised in the Prize citation.
(9) Space elevator may become a reality: NASA has determined the concept of replacing rockets with an elevator to be sound, and both Japan and China have projects already underway. By reducing the cost of putting satellites in orbit more than 100-fold, the project should pay for itself and then some.
[Following is a Facebook post of mine from August 29, 2012, with more technical details.]
The idea of a space elevator, a cabin that goes up and down a super-strong ribbon made of lightweight material and held vertically in space because much of its weight is on the other side of Earth's geostationary orbit, was proposed several years ago (I first encountered it in 2010). It is still a pie-in-the-sky idea, but its developers are proposing to build a smaller version on the Moon, to be used for dropping items there or retrieving them for transport back to Earth. This project will be simpler, given the Moon's much weaker gravitational pull. Still, nearly $1B will be needed to implement it. [Wikipedia article about the space elevator, Earth version]

2018/10/04 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Protest sign: Women say 'Kava-nope'! Dina Katabi, winner of the 2017 ACM Prize in Computing Statue of World War II sex slaves for Japanese soldiers installed in San Francisco (1) Pictorial news stories: [Left] Protest sign: Women say "Kava-nope"! [Center] The would-be medical doctor who became an accomplished computer scientist: Dina Katabi, winner of the 2017 ACM Prize in Computing for her creative contributions to wireless systems, ranked very high in Syria's university entrance exam and went to medical school, as expected of high achievers. She left her chosen field after a year, because she wanted to do math and engineering. (Source: CACM interview, October 2018) [Right] Japan's city of Osaka has cut its "sister city" ties with San Francisco over a statue of World War II sex slaves for Japanese soldiers.
(2) Science news: Half of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to Frances Arnold (Cal Tech), for work in changing how chemists produce new enzymes, and the other half to Gregory Winter (MRC Lab, Cambridge, England) and George Smith (U. Missouri), for their research that has led to new pharmaceuticals and cancer treatments.
(3) Women's rights advocate Maryam Azad was arrested at Tehran's International Airport, joining three other activists (Hoda Amid, Najmeh Vahedi, Rezvaneh Mohammadi) arrested earlier this month.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Former US Navy sailor arrested for sending toxic ricin seeds to Donald Trump and Pentagon.
- Experimental set-up shows the feasibility of direct brain-to-brain communication among three people.
- Khomeini apologist, who wrote a book in support of the fatwa to kill Salman Rushdie, lives freely in London.
- Iran installs surveillance cameras to detect women who attend soccer matches disguised as men.
- A few cartoons that need no caption. [Images]
- Brilliant accordion (Aydar Gaynullin) and violin (Darius Krapikas) conversation in Monti's Czardas.
(5) Brett Kavanaugh's Senate confirmation needs 50 votes: Here is the current outlook.
For: 48 R's; Against: 48 D's; Leaning for: Collins (R), Flake (R); Unknown: Manchin (D), Murkowski (R)
(6) Last night's IEEE meeting at Rusty's Pizza: After a 30-minute mixer with pizza and beer, Professor Benjamin Mazin of UCSB gave a talk entitled "Searching for Exosolar Earthlike Planets—Latest Developments." He began by describing the design of DARKNESS camera used to detect tiny amounts of light and minor light variations (it is installed at Palomar Observatory) and concluded by discussing methods of detecting planets outside our solar system and determining whether they can support life as we know it. Distant planets are too tiny and too faint to be observed directly, so their presence and properties are usually deduced from how they affect their stars (e.g., oscillations affecting the light spectrum, or blocking, akin to solar eclipse). [Photos]

Cover image for James L. Gelvin's 'The New Middle East' 2018/10/03 (Wednesday): Book review: Gelvin, James L., The New Middle East: What Everyone Needs to Know, Oxford, 2018.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
[Note: There are multiple books with the same title as this one.]
Written by historian and author of a related volume, The Arab Uprising: What Everyone Needs to Know, this book could have been titled "The Contemporary History of the Middle East." Here, "The Middle East" is defined as spanning from Morocco on the west to Iran on the east, a region more dependent on oil revenues that any other part of the world and comprising about half a billion people. The term "The New Middle East" was coined by US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, and later elaborated upon in the journal Foreign Affairs by policy analyst Richard N. Haass [p. 21], when the old, relatively-peaceful ME (from the US viewpoint) came crashing down with the invasion of Iraq.
Gelvin begins by discussing the region's past, 1945-2011, which he entitles "Before the Deluge" (ch. 1, pp. 1-23) and an overview of the Arab Uprisings (ch. 2, pp. 24-49). He then discusses the Syria embroglio (ch. 3, pp. 50-81), the rise and decline of ISIS (ch. 4, pp. 82-111), patrons, proxies, and freelancers (ch. 5, pp. 112-136), and human security in the New Middle East (ch. 6, pp. 137-167). There is no separate concluding section to wrap up the discussions and to point to what might be expected in the future, perhaps because any predictions for such a volatile region may turn out to be embarrassingly inaccurate.
According to Gelvin, five elements were responsible for popular uprisings, which had the dual goals of demanding rights/democracy and pressing for better economic conditions, in the Arab world. Bear in mind, though, that none of these elements was a key cause and, even with all of them in place, the uprisings weren't inevitable. Overall, the uprisings, with the possible exception of Tunisia's, were less than successful in bringing about major structural changes. Nowhere was this failure more pronounced than in Syria, owing to it having no Tahrir-Square-like epicenter and the army not standing down [p. 83].
1. Neo-liberalism: Having taken roots in the Arab world in the 1970s, neo-liberalism and its attendant economic reforms allowed Arab countries to get connected to and benefit from international markets and sources of credit.
2. Human rights revolution: Developing in tandem with neo-liberalism since the 1970s, the human rights and democratic rights movements were used by both liberal and regressive opponents of the region's regimes to weaken them.
3. Brittleness of Arab regimes: The region's regimes were caught between recommended austerity measures on the one hand and increased demand for government services on the other. Around the same time, governments in Western countries began to fall due to popular anger. The Arab world lacked such a safety valve, as people could not oust governments (politicians), so they focused on overthrowing the regime ("nizam").
4. Demography: An increase in the number of young people under 30 and the attendant rise in unemployment and under-employment, led to economic hardships across the region.
5. Global rise in food prices: Widespread droughts around the world and changes in agricultural priorities and patterns intensified the economic hardships that had arisen from demography and rampant unemployment. These factors affected each of the region's countries in a different way. Monarchies, by and large, escaped serious consequences, in part due to using their oil wealth to buy out their opponents. However, the survival of Morocco's monarchy is a puzzle, given that the country lacks oil.
Talking about the Middle East as a whole is challenging, because the countries in the region are not homogeneous. Arab women have the least political participation in the world, yet Israeli, Turkish, and, to some extent, Iranian women are relatively active.
I will list some of the key features of the New Middle East in the next few paragraphs.
* Refugee crises [pp. 76-77]: The Syrian civil war has intensified sectarian conflicts in all countries of the region. Syrian refugees have doubled Lebanon's unemployment rate to 20% and have caused major economic hardships in Turkey and Jordan. Many Iraqi refugees who had settled in Syria were forced to seek refuge back in Iraq, hardly a safer place.
* US-Israel relations [p. 120]: The US has become wary of extending unconditional support to Israel. "Obama's administration was not the first to have abstained or supported UN resolutions critical of Israel ... George W. Bush's allowed 6 such resolutions to pass, George H. W. Bush's allowed 9, and Ronald Reagan's allowed 21."
* Human security [p. 137]: The term "security" often means the security of states and governments. The term "human security" has been coined to shift the focus to those factors that make populations unsafe. The Middle East today is the second most urbanized region in the world (after Latin America). Megapolises with very limited human services form a major cause of human insecurity.
* Water shortage and climate-change vulnerabilities [pp. 141-144]: Three Arab countries (Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait) are already below water poverty line, defined as being able to use 50 liters of water daily for drinking and personal hygiene. There is no general agreement on whether the recent temperature spikes in the region are aberrations or omens of a new normal.
* Poverty and health problems [p. 157]: Whereas income poverty prevails in the region, despite its vast natural resources, human poverty, which includes also quality of life and the sense of well-being, is even worse. The Middle East is the second most obese region in the world, after the South Pacific.
Let me end my review by quoting the book's final paragraph [p. 167]: "The breadth and depth of the protests and uprisings that have engulfed the Arab world, Iran, Turkey, and Israel indicate that agitation for good governance is not a transient or localized phenomenon in the Middle East. As such, the history of the past thirty years cannot but disturb the sleep of politicians, kings, and dictators throughout the region."

2018/10/02 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
NASA's logo This photo was taken for the departmental brochure (no Web page then!) shortly after my arrival at UCSB in 1988 Today is IEEE Day, 134 years after the founding of one of its predecessor societies in Philadelphia (1) Anniversaries galore: NASA was born 60 years ago. On October 2, 1884, members of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, a predecessor society of today's Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE = "Eye-triple-E") gathered for the first time, in Philadelphia, to exchange technical ideas. Coincidentally, this 134th IEEE Day coincides with my celebration of arriving in California exactly 30 years ago (on October 2, 1988, when my sons were ~4 and 2.5 and my daughter was –5.5) to begin work as Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UCSB. I still love the place and work. The center photo was taken for the departmental brochure (no Web page then!) shortly after my arrival at UCSB.
[P.S.: My official work anniversary is actually July 1, but visa delays led to the late arrival. A kind colleague gave the first two lectures of the computer architecture course I was scheduled to teach during fall 1988.]
(2) Shades of Charlottesville: Despite calling Dr. Blasey Ford's testimony credible and characterizing her as a fine woman right after she testified, Trump goes on the attack during a campaign rally and shreds her to pieces. It seems that once again Trump (under pressure) made a statement he didn't really believe in and is now contradicting. Look at the women sitting behind him, though. Most of them don't seem to be thrilled with Trump's character assassination.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The Kavanaugh confirmation hearings gave us a glimpse of the bullying culture of privileged white men.
- eMedicare launched: On the heels of issuing new cards, Medicare moves to further embrace technology.
- A memorial at UCSB, with messages honoring the victims of the 2014 Isla Vista mass shooting.
- Dogs' intelligence is over-rated: They are not as smart as other animals.
- Invasive plant species may not be all bad: They actually help avert climate change.
- Newly discovered dwarf planet strengthens evidence for distant world.
(4) "Unfractured": This is the title of a documentary, screened early this afternoon at UCSB. The film is about the anti-fracking movement in New York and the role of one woman, Dr. Sandra Steingraber, in it. The effort led to NY's governor banning fracking in the state. The screening was followed by a discussion with the film's director, Chanda Chevannes (Seated on the right in one of these photos). Thanking the director, I shared with her something I learned from the film: That activism/protest isn't mindless sign-carrying and chanting, but involves much preparation. For example, the NY protesters would divide themselves into those who were prepared to be arrested and those who couldn't afford to. Those who expected to be taken away in handcuffs, needed to plan ahead for various commitments and their families' lives while they were gone. When law enforcement arrived on the scene, the second group quietly moved away, while the first group continued to block the gate or the road. Ms. Chevannes added that the protesters in her film underwent special training to ensure their protests remained nonviolent. The fact that the arrests were orderly and respectful drew laughter from the audience at a screening in Brazil, where the police behaves in a much different way!

2018/10/01 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Pablo Picasso's bust Before the age of drones, this is how photographers got their wide shots (1939) Sculpture: Stack of books (1) Art and its production process: [Left] Pablo Picasso's bust. [Center] Before the age of drones, this is how photographers got their wide shots (1939). (Source: Westways, 10/2018) [Right] Sculpture: Stack of books.
(2) The 2018 Nobel Prize in Medicine has been awarded to James P. Allison and Tasuku Honjo, who discovered different ways to unleash a patient's immune system against cancer.
(3) Sexual assault, and society's reaction to it, are now front and center in our national discourse. Let's not waste this opportunity to learn and act. [Dr. Nayereh Tohidi's Facebook post]
(4) Areas affected by the twin disasters (earthquake and tsunami) in Indonesia: People are still being dug out and the death toll of 850 is expected to rise significantly. [Map]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Scientists develop Martian soil to allow studies of Mars on Earth: And at $20/kg, it isn't dirt-cheap!
- Black waitress at Applebee's was left this note on a napkin in lieu of tip.
- Singer Charles Aznavour, who provided the soundtrack of the lives of people in my generation, dead at 94.
- Self-driving cars: Honda's AI confuses major Japanese ramen chain's logo with do-not-enter sign.
- Regardless of your circumstances, a smile can brighten your day. [Photo]
- Quote: "To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you." ~ Lewis B. Smedes
(6) Predators are everywhere: UCSB Chemistry Department researcher, 51-year-old Hongjun Zhou, arrested on charges of child sexual abuse.
(7) Seeing a friend after 45 years: This evening, I had dinner at Darband Grill in Thousand Oaks with half of the host family (the other half being her late husband) I had while attending UCLA in the early 1970s. It's impossible to cover 45 years of life stories over one dinner, so we'll get together again to continue the chat.

2018/09/30 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet. Fashion at Longchamp Racing, Paris, 1908
Lindsay Wagner in publicity photo for Pablo Picasso with Brigitte Bardot, 1956 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Fashion at Longchamp Racing, Paris, 1908. [Center] Lindsay Wagner in publicity photo for "The Bionic Woman," London, 1976. [Right] Pablo Picasso with Brigitte Bardot, 1956.
(2) Deflection tactics: We learned over the past couple of days that Yale is full of misogynists, sexual predators, and morally bankrupt men, so "I got into Yale" is definitely not a defense against alleged sexual misconduct.
(3) Exposing unethical business practices: I have been receiving many e-mail messages from Trello (I have no idea what it is or what it does). The e-mails have no link to allow the recipient to unsubscribe.
(4) Cartoon caption of the day: He was drunk ... so he wasn't responsible for his behavior.
She was drunk ... so she's responsible for putting herself in that situation.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Death toll for Indonesia tsunami, caused by 7.5-magnitude quake, approaches 1000.
- Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un have fallen in love: Kim written multiple love letters to Trump!
- The term "glacial speed" may be obsolete, because glaciers are no longer moving at glacial speed!
- A visual puzzle that has gone viral: Can you spot the pencil in this image?
- I have no idea where this is, but I find it enchanting. [Photo]
- Persian poetry: A humorous poem about rising prices having elevated the social status of tomatoes.
- This evening's sunset at Camino Real Marketplace in Goleta. [Photos]
- Quote: "Our ultimate goal is to make as many people as sad as possible when we die." ~ Anonymous
(6) The FAA Reauthorization Bill, in final stages of passage by the US Senate, will set minimum width and spacing standards for airline seats. The bill also has other provisions to help passengers and improve safety.
(7) Final thought for the day: "Ninety-nine percent of us are good-hearted people who respect others and want peace. The other one percent rule the world and tell us we're at war." ~ Lee Camp

2018/09/29 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet. The Afghan girl, who became famous by being featured on the cover of 'National Geographic,' grew into a rugged woman An innovative fountain
Little Iranian girl at fig harvest time (1) Feminine beauty: [Left] The Afghan girl, who was featured on the cover of National Geographic, grew into a rugged woman. [Center] An innovative fountain. [Right] Little Iranian girl at fig harvest time.
(2) Dr. Blasey Ford used her training in psychology to answer a question: "I don't expect that P. J. and Leland would remember this evening. It was a very unremarkable party. It was not one of their more notorious parties. Nothing remarkable happened to them that evening. They were downstairs. Mr. Judge [the friend alleged to be with her and Kavanaugh during the assault] is a different story. I would expect that he would remember."
[In fact, Mark Judge may also not remember. Many men who routinely harass or assault women, have no recollection of their individual victims. To them, the women and the behavior are unremarkable.]
(3) Donald Trump: The #MeToo movement is very dangerous for powerful men! Me: Only for powerful men who are dangerous to their underlings!
(4) Republicans in a ditch continue digging: "Women are going to hold the Republicans accountable for this grotesque spectacle at the ballot box. We do not have to accept a situation in which sexual violence is dismissed, and the perpetrators could be promoted."
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Magnitude-7.5 quake and ensuing tsunami devastate Indonesia.
- Shaming the victim: Fox News' Kevin Jackson reportedly fired for this gem and other offensive tweets.
- The cult residing in Albania, plotting regime change in Iran, and endearing itself to Washington.
- This is the image the world is getting from our country: A bunch of old, angry, white men. [Meme]
- Feminism: The radical notion that women are people, not properties. [Meme]
- Borowitz report (humor): Obama saddened that Kavanaugh did not blame him at any point.
- Senator Kamala Harris' statement at the US Senate hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
- Tonight's SNL season premier opened with a spoof of Kavanaugh hearings, with Matt Damon as the judge.
(6) #MeToo moves into a new phase: Sexual assault reports have tripled since Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's Senate testimony. Some very young victims indicate that their families told them to keep their mouths shut.
(7) Israelis more worried about Trump's UN speech than the rest of the world: This seems counter-intuitive at first, but their country is highly dependent on US prestige and world leadership, so any erosion in the latter makes them nervous.
(8) Store closings, left and right, in our area: Goleta K-Mart is all but gone, with 80+% of the store already liquidated. It will soon be replaced by a Target store, opening in our area for the first time. Orchard Supply Hardware isn't far behind, with the liquidation discount already at 30-60%. [Photos]
(9) Final thought for the day: Tehran University's College of Engineering anthem was performed tonight at the annual gathering of Fanni graduates in Los Angeles, an event that I could not attend. [Sheet music]

2018/09/27 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Basic Human D's & C: A new supplement for men who cannot interact with women without sexualizing them! Sign of the times: Hell hath no fury like that of 157 million women scorned Iran's President Rouhani claims that the world won't find a better friend than Iran (1) Some interesting memes: [Left] Basic Human D's & C: A new supplement for men who cannot interact with women without sexualizing them! [Center] Sign of the times: Hell hath no fury like that of 157 million women scorned. [Right] Iran's President Rouhani claims that the world won't find a better friend than Iran: The signs in the photo read "Death to America," "Death to Europe," "Death to Arab Leaders," "Death to Human Rights," etc.
(2) Kavanaugh hearing: Dr. Blasey Ford won over many members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, including some Republicans (at least they said they were impressed). Kavanaugh's opening statement seemed sincere and compelling. But then, he went on the attack, screamed at the questioners, waxed political about Democrats conspiring against him, and, in one case, when asked about his drinking problem, asked back about the questioner's drinking habits. Definite no-nos!
(3) These three on-the-fence Republican Senators (Flake, Collins, Murkowski), plus one Democrat worried about his re-election in a red state, will decide Kavanaugh's fate: It's really sad that being re-elected has become more important than doing the right thing.
(4) Persian poetry: Morteza Keyvan Hashemi recites his poem in which he says, for example, that he fears ignorant religiosity, not God himself, and that he prefers knowledgeable foes to uninformed friends.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Senator Lindsey Graham's ignorant tweet about sexual assault victims and a response to it.
- Six Baha'i environmental activists arrested in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz on unknown charges.
- Exchange value for US dollar surpasses 16,000 tomans, as Iranian currency continues its nosedive.
- All this trouble, just to save a puppy: Hats off to, and Hope restored in, humanity. [Video]
- Humor: The opposite of reserved parking! [Photo]
- Cartoon of the day: "The world is laughing at us, folks." [Image]
- Persian music: Jalal Taj Esfahani's "Beh Esfahan Ro" ("Go to Esfahan").
- Traditional Persian music, in a refreshingly new way: Ali Ghamsari performs his own composition on tar.
(6) Iranian official Ataollah Mohajerani, who wrote a book in 1989 defending Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa calling for the murder of author Salman Rushdi, now lives in London.
(7) How Putin projects power through his wealthy allies: This is the theme of an article in Time magazine (October 1, 2018). These oligarchs are in turn connected to wealthy and powerful individuals around the world.
(8) Scientists observe matter (equivalent to Earth's mass) falling (in about a day) at roughly 1/3 the speed of light into a black hole a billion light years away.
(9) Iran's beautiful nature: Boojan County near Neishapour, a city in the Iranian province of Khorasan.

2018/09/26 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image for Rose McGowan's 'Brave' (1) Book review: McGowan, Rose, Brave, unabridged audiobook on 6 CDs, read by the author, Harper Audio, 2018.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This is a combination memoir/manifesto. McGowan, one of the strongest voices in the #MeToo movement, had the courage to escape two cults (in her own words). One was a religious cult, which brainwashed and abused her as a child. The other was the cult of Hollywood and the entertainment industry that sexualizes women and uses them for the pleasure of powerful men. Having escaped the first cult, McGowan had the skills and tools to escape the second, and to help bring down some of the said powerful men, who took advantage of their veneer of supposedly championing and mentoring new talent.
McGowan writes at length about the objectification of women and setting of unreasonable and misguided standards of beauty to keep them under control. At one point, as part of her defying what was expected of her, McGowan cut her hair really short, as she viewed a woman's hair one of the tools of her subjugation. She never mentions the name of her abuser, Harvey Weinstein, in the book, calling him "monster" instead. In the course of her fights against the entertainment industry's bigwigs, McGowan was harassed by lawyers and former Israeli spies (hired through a security firm by Weinstein to dig up dirt on her).
After the Weinstein abuse episode, McGowan thought she had found love with a man pretending to be her savior, the so-called knight in shining armor. But he proved to be a control freak and physical/emotional abuser. At one point, he subjected McGowan to a lie-detector test, because he suspected her of having an affair. According to McGowan, one trick used by powerful men is to deliberately destabilize women and then use their condition to sow doubts about their believability.
McGowan emerged from these brutal tests triumphant and respected, as she dragged down her powerful abuser. The book was eye-opening for me, even though I already supported the #MeToo movement and identified with feminism more generally.
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Why does the press even cover a "news conference" during which not one question is properly answered?
- Actress Alyssa Milano shares her poem, "A Survivor's Prayer," dedicated to survivors of sexual assault.
- Trump wants to ban the production of cocoa (chocolate source): He meant to say coca (cocaine source)!
- Today on UCSB West Campus bluffs: A brisk day, with perfect weather for walking and enjoying nature.
(3) The floodgates have opened: A third woman accuser of Judge Brett Kavanaugh has come forward. This is the usual pattern. Additional victims are emboldened by those who go first. And they don't want to leave the first accuser out in the cold if they have info to support them. Kavanaugh's third accuser sounds even more credible than the first two. She describes a repetitive group behavior that will likely be corroborated, given the large number of participants and witnesses.
(4) Alternative fact: Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the UN, says laughter at the General Assembly wasn't a diss but a sign of respect for Trump's 'honesty'? Honesty? Really?
(5) Round-table discussion: Striving for Human Rights in Iran (Skirball Cultural Center, Wed. 10/10/2018, 7:00 PM). I will try my best to attend this event, which will be a challenge, given that I teach 4-5 PM on 10/10. The previous event with the same title was quite interesting and informative.

2018/09/25 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
T-shirt inscription reads: 'Make lies wrong again' Marathon cheering sign: 'Run like Donald Trump is behind you and Justin Trudeau is just ahead' US Senators and Congressional Representatives should start listening to Bob Dylan, before it's too late (1) Some interesting images, dissing politicians: [Left] T-shirt inscription reads: "Make lies wrong again." [Center] Marathon cheering sign: "Run like Donald Trump is behind you and Justin Trudeau is just ahead." [Right] US Senators and Congressional Representatives should start listening to Bob Dylan, before it's too late.
(2) Iran's President Rouhani "is an absolutely lovely man": Whether Trump is being facetious or he really admires Rouhani (like Putin and NK's Kim), he is making up the "requests" part. Rouhani requesting to meet with Trump would be a kiss of death for his government, whose cabinet ministers are facing a wave of impeachments by conservatives in Iran's parliament. He has reportedly asked for a pause in impeachment proceedings, offering to make several changes of his own upon returning from the UN meeting in New York. Iran's Supreme Leader has banned meetings with the US, and no one would dare over-ride his instructions. In the past, Iranian reps attending UN meetings have even carefully planned their bathroom visits to avoid chance encounters with Americans, which would spell doom for them back home.
(3) The President, who faulted previous administrations for making us the laughingstock of the world, was laughed at this morning at the UN, when he said he had accomplished more than any US President!
(4) Nikki Haley and Mike Pompeo look at Trump with admiration during his UN speech, while a man (from a "shithole country"?) covers his face. [Photo]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- A detailed description and analysis of how Russia helped swing the 2016 presidential election for Trump.
- Our Liar-in-Chief (unintentionally) makes world leaders at UN's General Assembly laugh! [Image]
- France's President Macron delivers a forceful rebuttal to Trump.
- Bill Cosby sentenced to 3-10 years in prison for 2004 rape case, meaning that he will serve at least 3 years.
- Everything you need to know about footnotes, including the fact that they were first used in the year 1347.
- Some common English words that have come from Arabic, and the paths they have taken to grt here.
- Little girl's rousing rendition of the US National Anthem at an LA Galaxy soccer match.
(6) #MeToo has made us take the first step: Listen to women. Now, we have to take additional steps and do something beyond listening. Bill Cosby's conviction and sentencing is just a start. Much more is needed.
(7) College soccer: UCSB men's soccer team played Gonzaga, a traditionally strong soccer school, tonight at Harder Stadium: By the end of minute 32, the Gauchos led 2-0, having scored on a PK and off a corner kick. Gonzaga scored 5 minutes from the end of the match to make the final score 2-1. UCSB's record is now 6-3-0, including an impressive 3-1 win over arch-rival UCLA. [Images]

2018/09/24 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
This poignant message warns against following anti-vaxers and other science deniers Fame and success aren't the same thing Warning: Reading can seriously damage your ignorance (1) Memes: [Left] This poignant message warns against following anti-vaxers and other science deniers. [Center] Fame and success aren't the same thing. [Right] Reading can seriously damage your ignorance.
(2) Tammie Jo Shults, the woman who became a hero when she safely landed a severely damaged Southwest plane, was once told girls don't become pilots.
(3) The similarities between Thomas and Kavanaugh confirmation hearings are undeniable: But there are also key differences, in that there is no race factor at play for Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford's accusation comes after our society's supposed enlightenment by the #MeToo movement. Clips of Anita Hill's testimony being replayed to draw comparisons is quite instructive, because they reveal the horrible treatment she received. [Photos]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Republicans' definition of due process includes making up your mind before hearing the accuser. [Image]
- Republicans' inverted logic: Everyone having guns makes us safer, but everyone having healthcare kills us all.
- Emphasis on STEM shouldn't be at the expense of marginalizing general education and humanities.
- How knowing more than one language enhances your brain's health and delays the onset of Alzheimer's.
- "It was a long time ago—Are you sure you haven't confused us with someone who cares?" [Cartoon]
- Teacher: "Who started the American Civil War?" Student: "Fox News and MSNBC." [Cartoon]
- Where Kurds live: Dark green areas are at least 3/4 Kurdish; medium green, ~1/3 or more. [Map]
- Masoud Darvish sings 3 Persian songs: "Sooreh Ehsas"; "Hamisheh Asheghetam"; "Raghs-e Baran"
(5) This week at UCSB: The week began with move-in and will continue with pre-instructional activities, until the start of fall-quarter classes on Thursday 9/27. [Photo]
(6) Call for inquiry into arbitrary detentions in Iran: A group of Iranian academics and human rights advocates have begun a petition drive to thank the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention for investigating the imprisonment of Princeton graduate student Xiyue Wang in Iran and concluding that the charges against him are totally baseless. This signable on-line petition, written in both English and Persian, includes links to various information sources and related articles.

2018/09/23 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Condolences to the southwestern Iranian city of Ahvaz for its losses in terror attack Calligraphic rendering of a Persian adage in Nastaliq script, rendered with a ball-point pen, instead of a calligraphy pen Persian calligraphy: Playing on the word 'eshgh' ('love') (1) Calligraphic art: [Left] Condolences to the southwestern Iranian city of Ahvaz for its losses in terror attack. [Center] Reflection: There are times when you catch yourself doing what you have scorned others for doing; confronting yourself is so scary! (The Persian version shown is written beautifully in Nastaliq script, using a ball-point pen, rather than a calligraphy pen; artist unknown) [Right] Playing on the word "eshgh" ("love").
(2) Effects of the #MeToo movement: We have a long way to go before women are viewed as full human beings with the same rights as everyone else, but the very fact that men in positions of power have begun apologizing for sexual misconduct or for not taking complaints seriously (as is the case for Santa Barbara City College President Anthony Beene) is cause for hope. Even if many of the apologies are insincere, the very fact that they feel compelled to offer them in order to survive is a step forward.
(3) Quote of the day: "What boy hasn't done this?" ~ Some women apologists for Brett Kavanaugh [It seems that the #MeToo movement has a lot of work to do educating women about their rights!]
(4) This statement, which I have translated from Persian, has been attributed to Mhatma Gandhi (I searched for its original from, but could not find anything similar on-line. Perhaps it is a misattribution, but I like the sentiment): The problem is that through a woman's torn clothes, people see her immodesty, not her poverty.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- To be happier, ban small-talk from your conversations: Here are 12 questions to ask instead.
- What kind of reasoning leads to making both abortion and contraception less accessible?
- Persian music: Violinist extraordinaire Bijan Mortazavi performs live in Los Angeles.
- Iranian folk music: Performed by Maliheh Moradi (vocals) and Shahab Azinmehr (setar). [Video]
- Girls are often ridiculed for the way they run, throw, jump, and so on: If you agree, watch this video.
- Statues come alive to stun and delight the spectators. [The music may be muted due to copyright issues]
(6) Persian fusion music: "Zamzameh" ("Whisper"), a piece based on a traditional Khorasani (northeastern Iran) melody, played by Masoud Shaari (setar), Sina Shaari (oud), and Darshan Anand (Indian drums).
(7) Mitch McConnell calls Trump to tell him that his comments about Dr. Blasey Ford, the professor who has accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, were unhelpful: Notice that he said "unhelpful," not "wrong"!
(8) Wheelchair-bound Iranian veteran asked a friend to take a photo of him during the Ahvaz, Iran, military parade: It turned out to be his last photo, as he died in the terror attack that ensued. [Photo]

2018/09/22 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Fall has arrived: Happy new school year to students, teachers, and others in academia! Birds, ocean, and sunset create a magnificent sight to behold Sumptuous Iranian spread, with fish and rice as the main dish (1) Some seasonal images: [Left] Fall has arrived: A very happy new school year to students, teachers, and others in academia! [Center] Birds, ocean, and sunset create a magnificent sight to behold. [Right] Sumptuous Iranian spread, with fish and rice as the main dish.
(2) US Supreme Court nominee: Judge Brett Kavanaugh's case gets more complicated following reports that two Yale law professors groomed good-looking female students to clerk for him.
(3) Tone-deaf Republican politician jokes about sexual assault: Did you hear the latest news about Ruth Bader Ginsburg coming out that she was groped by Abraham Lincoln? They just don't get it. Period.
(4) Gender pay gap (80 cents for women vs. $1 for men) extends to other areas: In fact, the gap is much worse in stock options, where women get 47 cents to male coworkers' dollar.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Terrorist attack at a military parade in Iran's southern city of Ahvaz, leaves at least 24 adults/kids dead.
- Congressman discounts the assault allegation against Kavanaugh as "an attempt that didn't go anywhere."
- Space achievement: Japan landed two rovers on an asteroid, and they have begun sending back pictures.
- Look at these high-heel shoes carefully to see what they are made of. [Images]
- The amazing nature: Animals pursuing food, on their own or with human help. [Video]
- Solo violin performance at what appears to be a public park in Iran. [Video]
- Iranians enjoying themselves with song and dance on a hiking trail, away from the eyes of anti-fun officials.
(6) In an op-ed, President Reagan's daughter, Patti Davis, writes about being sexually assaulted by a music industry executive, an incident she kept to herself for decades.
(7) [Please consider signing this petition; link at the bottom of this Persian news story.]
The petition reads, in part: We the undersigned, a group of Iranian academics and human rights activists residing outside the country, wish to thank the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention for investigating the imprisonment of Mr. Xiyue Wang in Iran and concluding that there is "no legal basis for his arrest and detention." ... Mr. Wang is a hostage and the purpose of Iran's theocrats is either to swap him for their convicted agents detained in the United States or collect money for his release. ...
(8) Possible math breakthrough: Michael Atiyah says he will provide "a simple proof" of the 160-year-old Riemann hypothesis in a talk at the Heidelberg Laureate Forum in Germany.
(9) Another Trump surrogate bites the dust: Jason Miller, former Trump aide and apologist on CNN panels, always seemed creepy to me. Miller has been ousted by CNN amid accusations that include giving a mistress an abortion-inducing drug without her knowledge.

2018/09/21 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image for the audiobook 'Russian Roulette' (1) Book review: Isikoff, Michael and David Corn, Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of Donald Trump, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Peter Ganim, Twelve, 2018.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This book presents a detailed, well-researched account, backed by documents and testimonials, of Trump's cozy relationship with several dozen Russians and mob figures. He, his family members, and close associates were intimately involved in commercial real-estate developments in Russia, including multiple attempts at building Trump towers and hotels, with the deals falling through only because Russia wanted majority control of the projects. The Trump organization was also involved in real-estate transactions in the US by Russian nationals, many of them suspected of money-laundering and other criminal activities.
Every time he has been questioned about these shady figures, Trump has feigned ignorance of their criminal backgrounds and, in most cases, has denied that he knew them beyond casual contacts.
The book offers a detailed account of FBI's efforts to brief DNC officials about Russian infiltration of their servers, going as far as providing URLs of sites in Russia with which DNC servers were communicating, warnings that were, for the most part, dismissed until it was too late. Russian hackers had conducted extensive phishing campaigns that, among other things, netted them passwords and other credentials of high-level DNC operatives, which allowed them to access e-mail communications as well as current and archived documents.
In terms of research and documentation, this is one of the better books among many titles that have been published about Trump, his presidential campaign, and his presidency. I have not yet read Bob Woodward's just-published book, Fear: Trump in the White House.
(2) Iran of youre: Print-media ad from half a century ago, telling Iranians that all they need to travel comfortably around the world is a passport and a Saderat Bank revolving-account checkbook.
(3) Pants on fire: Trump and his lawyer deny that he admitted he fired James Comey because of the Russia investigation, despite millions having seen the edited version of the on-camera NBC interview (where he plainly said so) and a longer version of the interview being available on YouTube.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Additional accusers emerge for California doctor and his girlfriend, who drugged and raped many women.
- NC river breaches dam and connects to a power plant's coal-ash reservoir, risking serious contamination.
- Two cartoons about today's biggest news story: Confirmation hearings of Judge Kavanaugh.
- Proposed Antarctica wall could prevent glaciers from melting and avert catastrophic sea-level rise.
- Science saves the day: Elephant-tusk DNA testing exposes three massive ivory-smuggling cartels.
- Persian music: Hoor Orchestra performs Saeed-Nia Kowsari's "Ey Zabaan-e Farsi" (Oh Persian Language).
(5) A plan for survival: In an editorial published by the journal Science, leading biologists propose setting aside half of Earth's surface to allow wildlife to thrive.
(6) Final thought for this International Peace Day (September 21): The world spends about $250 annually for every human being on Earth to wage war.

2018/09/20 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon: 'My thoughts and prayers have been answered!' If Trump shot someone on Fifth Avenue (he would deny it, of course)! Cartoon: 'Not now, honey. Daddy's arguing with strangers about sexual orientation of puppets.' (1) Political cartoons of the day: [Left] "My thoughts and prayers have been answered!" (see the first item under one-liners below) [Center] If Trump shot someone on Fifth Avenue (he'd deny it, of course)! [Right] "Not now, honey. Daddy's arguing with strangers about sexual orientation of puppets." (From: The New Yorker)
(2) Stats for Santa Barbara's 27th Annual Day of Caring (September 15, 2018) published: More than 1000 volunteers showed up at over 50 SB County sites, providing landscaping, painting, repair, clean-up, and other services, with estimated value of around $300,000.
(3) Censorship in Iran keeps getting weirder and weirder: The judiciary arrests two theater veterans and bans a performance of "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
(4) Comprehensive study done under Iran's President Rouhani concludes that the current system, including lavish spending on "other Muslims," is unsustainable.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Workplace shooting at Rite Aid distribution center leaves multiple people dead and several others injured.
- Fear stops many women from speaking up, making sexual assault the most under-reported crime.
- The more things change, the more they stay the same: Misogyny in the #MeToo age. [Tweet]
- With many of his aides arrested, it's only a matter of time before Ahmadinejad himself is nabbed.
- How playing an instrument and listening to music vastly improve our cognitive abilities.
- Studying patterns in music: Songs that stay with us and dominate our brains are highly repetitive.
- Arabic fusion music: The French band Orange Blossom performs "Habibi" ("My Love").
- Persian music: Violinist extraordinaire Bijan Mortazavi performs "Hemaaseh" ("Epic") in his 1994 concert.
(6) Be curious, not judgmental: An essay by a psychology professor about the difference between being judgmental ("He's lazy!") and curious ("What's holding him back?") in dealing with students and others. "If a person's behavior doesn't make sense to you, it is because you are missing a part of their context."
(7) The Kavanaugh hearing is a big test for the Republicans: Not just how they treat Dr. Ford, but the manner of showing to suburban white women, who helped elect Trump, that they've heard the #MeToo message.
(8) Convergence of computer science and biology: Animal species are nothing but collections of pre-loaded algorithms that evolve to maximize survival chances.
(9) Engineering failure: Pipe pressure was 12 times higher than safe limit just before the Boston gas explosions. Where were the pressure monitors? Automatic shut-off mechanisms? Human oversight?

2018/09/19 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Some much-needed perspective on the role/place of us humans in nature! How did a Latino immigrant suddenly become a white racist? No president has done what Trump has done: Absolutely correct! (1) Three interesting and timely memes: [Left] Some much-needed perspective on the role/place of us humans in nature! [Center] How did a Latino immigrant suddenly become a white racist? [Right] No president has done what Trump has done: Absolutely correct!
(2) Oh, the Irony: North Carolina, a highly vulnerable US state to global warming because of its low-lying coastal areas, passed a law in 2012 to ban policies based on predictions of catastrophically-rising sea levels.
(3) Don't keep loads of your children's art: Creating artwork is good. Sharing them with parents and being acknowledged is also good. But keeping boxes of them around the house is a waste of time, because, over time, the works will lose freshness and seem less impressive. I kind of buy this advice; many may disagree.
(4) Fusion music to get you off your chair: Rachid Taha and Catherine Ringer perform "Ya Rayah" ("Oh Immigrant"). And here's the English translation of the lyrics.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Those who constantly cry 'Fake News,' including the Trumps, are actually the worst spreaders of fakery!
- Aftermath of Hurricane Florence: Train derails in North Carolina after flooding washes away the tracks.
- This isn't a river: It's North Carolina's Interstate 40. Hurricane Florence's death toll reaches 35. [Photo]
- Persian music: Dialog between oud (Sina Shaari), setar (Masoud Shaari), and percussion (Pejman Haddadi).
- Cartoon of the day: Iranian women outsmart the regime every step of the way! [Image]
- "I hope all that's good looks beautiful to you." ~ Ehsan Yarshater, writing in a young girl's autograph book
(6) Joke of the day: A thief came to my house at night, and, when he found nothing worth taking, he woke me up and said: "Hey, man! I feel so sorry for you. Here's 100 bucks."
(7) Fusion Jazzy music: Barcelona Gipsy Klezmer Orchestra performs "Djelem Dejelem" ("I Went, I Went").
[See Wikipedia for the history of this Romani anthem.]
(8) Math puzzle: A runner enters an east-west tunnel from its east end and runs one quarter of its length, when she notices a car moving at 40 km/hr approaching the tunnel's east end. If she runs at her maximum speed in either direction, she would get to the end of the tunnel exactly at the same time as the car. What is the athlete's top speed?
(9) [Final post for the day] Persian music: Oud, tar, and tonbak are featured in this wonderful piece by three talented young women: Padideh Ahrarnejad (tar), Ava Ayoubi (oud), and Nazanin Pedarsani (tonbak).

2018/09/17 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image for 'Dear Fahrenheit 451' (1) Book review: Spence, Annie, Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks, unabridged audiobook on 5 CDs, read by Stephanie Spicer, Dreamscape Media, 2017.
[My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Imagine a book as the love interest of a librarian. What would s/he write in a love letter to his/her favorite book? What might one see in a break-up note, when the book has reached the end of its shelf life and no one seems to be interested in borrowing it?
The letters in this book are generally witty, funny, and compassionate, some more so than others. At times, the letters/notes are quite short, taking the form of book introductions or recommendations. You may disagree with some of the author's assessments, but her fairly short book is still an easy and fun read.
(2) Nuclear power plants in the Carolinas still in danger: Since Japan's Fukushima disaster, operators have shored up defenses, but will the protections be enough?
(3) Actor Harrison Ford (Han Solo, Indiana Jones) urges us to reject politicians who don't believe in science or, worse, pretend they don't believe in science out of self-interest.
(4) As we are occupied by Hurricane Florence here in the US, Typhoon Mangkhut, said to be the strongest-ever storm in the world, is wreaking havoc in China and, most recently, Hong Kong. And here is a video showing wind-caused damage in Japan's storm of last week.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Hurricane Florence: Death toll rises. Hundreds still trapped. The worst still to come in some areas. [Photos]
- Trump's tweet about Mexican Independence Day generates predictable backlash. [Image]
- Someone please start counting: Trump has issued his first truthful tweet! [Tweet image]
- Donald Trump Jr. mocks Brett Kavanaugh's sexual assault accuser: Apple does not fall far from the tree!
- Heavenly apple orchard (location unknown): I never knew that such small trees can bear this much fruit!
- Persian music: Masterful violin and tonbak duo by Reza Shayesteh and Nazanin Pedar-Sani.
(6) Morning huddle at the White House: "Staffers, try to contain him and keep your hands in his face. Aides, cut off the outlets. Advisers, watch out for that quick release. And, everyone, stay alert for fumbles." [Cartoon from: The New Yorker]
(7) Bob Woodward's book, Fear, is a best-seller, but it didn't cause even a ripple in Washington: Why? In part because what Woodward describes isn't surprising to anyone who has been reading the news of late, and partly because our reverence for the presidency has sharply declined after JFK (the womanizer), Nixon (the foul-mouthed crook), Clinton ("I did not have sexual relations with that woman"), and GWB (need I explain?).

2018/09/16 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet. One of the first bicycles entering Iran in the Qajar era
Kurdish women of Kermanshah gather by the stream flowing next to Taq-e Bostan, a relic from the 4th-century AD Sassanid Empire, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site (early 20th century) Boys with shaven heads as part of the treatment for scalp infections (June 13, 1951) (1) Iran's history in pictures: [Left] One of the first bicycles entering Iran in the Qajar era. [Center] Kurdish women of Kermanshah gather by the stream flowing next to Taq-e Bostan, a relic from the 4th-century AD Sassanid Empire, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site (early 20th century). [Right] Boys with shaven heads as part of the treatment for scalp infections (June 13, 1951).
(2) This cleric says that Iran's conditions will not improve: Those holding power have gone from penniless to super-rich and it's foolish to think that they will start doing the right thing after four decades of being in power.
(3) Two very interesting quotes from the legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
On immigrants: "What the immigrant perspective means is you know at least two places very well, which means you can actually put two places in your head at the same time. That's what builds imagination."
On whether there is still a place for classical music in pop culture: "The percentage of calcium in our diet is probably 0.00001%—But tell me we don't need calcium."
(4) Quote of the day: "Insulin was discovered in 1920, and I like that at the 100-year mark we may be done injecting insulin." ~ Douglas Melton, Harvard Stem Cell Institute [Quoted in Time magazine]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Meme of the day: Maybe justice is indeed blind: Or, perhaps, it is also deaf, heartless, and greedy!
- Donald Trump Jr. takes a stab at humor re Obama's mistake of referring to 57 states and lives to regret it.
- Mourners burn 72 doves alive to commemorate the slaughter of Imam Hussein and his army in Karbala.
- Persian music: "Majnoon" by Hoor Orch. (composed by Anooshiravan Rohani, arranged by Bijan Mortazavi.
- Persian music: A wonderful instrumental piece (violin, piano, tonbak) by Hoor Orchestra.
- Some choreography ideas for anyone wanting to perform the Persian "Baba Karam" dance!
- Archaeological discoveries in Egypt: Recently, a new Sphinx and other artifacts were found in a temple.
(6) Persian music: Salar Aghili sings "Raghs-e Guisoo," accompanied by Mehrnavazan Orchestra (composed by Fereydoon Hafezi, lyrics by Mir Naser Sharifi; a song made famous by Delkash).
(7) Persian music: Naghmeh Hafezi (piano) and Peyman Lohrasbi (violin) perform "Raghs-e Guisoo" (the song detailed in my previous post) in an intimate setting. [Anooshiravan Rohani speaks at the end.]

2018/09/15 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Chart, plotting quality of news media (from fabricated stories at the bottom to highly accurate fact reporting at the top) vs. partisan bias (extreme liberal on the left to extreme conservative on the right) (1) Informative chart, plotting quality of news media (from fabricated stories at the bottom to highly accurate fact reporting at the top) vs. partisan bias (extreme liberal on the left to extreme conservative on the right).
(2) Physics puzzle: There are two straight iron bars that look and feel identical. One is a magnet and the other isn't. How can you tell which is which by just touching them to each other? No other action is allowed.
(3) Terahertz clocks on the way: PC clock rates have stalled around 10 GHz and further improvement does not seem possible with current technology. German researchers believe that using graphene in electronics may allow orders-of-magnitude increase in clock rates.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Hurricane Florence's death toll, now at 11, will likely rise as rainwater and storm surge subside.
- Is our rotting infrastructure catching up with us? Here's a map of gas fires/explosions, in Andover, MA.
- Worked this morning on cleaning up Isla Vista as my "Day of Caring" project. [Photos]
- The turnout was impressive, consisting almost exclusively of students. A cause of hope for our society!
- RIP VW Beetle [1945-2019]: The model will be discontinued at age 74.
- Looking forward to reading In Pieces, actress Sally Field's honest, brave, and highly personal memoir.
- Interesting essay by a woman who filed for divorce three months after her wedding day.
- Essentials for a summer afternoon: Colorful flower bouquet and a yummy-looking fruit plate. [Photos]
(5) Some interesting/funny video clips for your enjoyment on this mid-September Saturday.
- Little girl, with magical voice and unbelievable poise, performs at a talent competition.
- Iranian music and dance from the Caspian shore region. [1-minute video]
- Practical demonstration of the management style of the Islamic Republic of Iran officials! [1-minute video]
- Humorous Persian poetry: Cleric recites an anti-regime piece at a poetry-reading session in Iran.
- Either Chinese toddlers receive financial training or, like Iran, there is a severe shortage of diapers in China!
- This magic routine, performed at "Britain's Got Talent," involves the quickest costume changes ever.
- And one last video: Man likes magic trick at first, but things don't go well later!?
(6) Persian poetry: In this poem, entitled "Assumption," Hooshang Ebtehaj (pen name H. E. Sayeh) tells us that people routinely make incorrect assumptions. And they are often sincere in their beliefs; they simply don't know or don't remember better. This, he said in one poetry session before reading the poem, explains inaccuracies in all autobiographies. Everyone writing an autobiography in Iran declares himself not responsible for the current mess, the left blaming the right and the right blaming the left.

2018/09/14 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image for 'TransAtlantic' (1) Book review: McCann, Colum, TransAtlantic: A Novel, unabridged audiobook, read by Geraldine Hughes, Random House Audio, 2013.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
The narrative in this novel begins with two aviators, Jack Alcock and Arthur Brown, setting out to cross the Atlantic Ocean in 1919, shortly after the end of World War I, flying from St. John's in Newfoundland to Ireland on a modified bomber. Two other Atlantic-crossers are prominently featured in the novel: Frederick Douglass, who goes on a lecture tour in the mid 1840s to promote his subversive autobiography, and Irish-American Senator George Mitchell, who travels to Belfast in 1998 to lead Northern Ireland's highly sensitive peace talks.
McCann introduces quite a few made-up characters alongside the real ones and weaves their fictional life stories, including parallels between them, with real personalities and events of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. The stories are tied together by a number of remarkable women, beginning with Lily Duggan, an Irish housemaid, who crossed paths with Frederick Douglass.
(2) Kurds' rights in Iran: The late Dr. Abdol Rahman Ghassemlou [1930-1989] said that the Kurds are no less Iranian than any other group of people in the country and will never accept the status of second-class citizens.
(3) Quote of the day: "There is rape because there are rapists, not because there are pretty girls." ~ Leni Lobredo, Philippines VP, responding to President Rodrigo Duterte's remark that rape will exist "as long as there are many beautiful women"
(4) Mass killing in China: Vehicle attack in Central China kills a dozen people and injures 44: The incident has been classified as a case of "revenge on society" rather than terrorism.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump presents "alternative facts": Hurricane Maria death toll was inflated by Democrats to hurt him!
- Planned Parenthood's new president, Dr. Leana Wen, is an immigrant who practices emergency medicine.
- Gunman, his wife, and 4 others dead in Bakersfield, California, shooting incident.
- Late Senator John McCain's family distraught over the use of his words in political attack ads.
- Architect introduces some excitement and variety into the design of heretofore boring bathroom stalls.
- The President prepares for Hurricane Florence. [Cartoon] [From: The New Yorker]
- Math puzzle: How can you obtain 6 by using only 0s and any number of math symbols?
- Persian music: A short audio clip of Marzieh singing "Guisoo," accompanied by a historic photo of her.
(6) Bob Woodward's Fear: Trump in the White House sets publishing records: It sells 3/4 million copies on its first day and already has 1.15 million hard copies in print.
(7) Wonderful 10-day weather forecast for the Santa Barbara/Goleta area: Sunny, highs in the 70s, lows around 60. Feeling for those affected by Hurricane Florence.
[Continued dry conditions, leading to high fire danger, is a different story here in California, though.]

2018/09/13 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photos of the French citroen minimalist car model, marketed as 'Zhiaan' in Iran of the 1970s (1) Throwback Thursday: Some Iranian friends and acquaintances from my generation may have fond memories of this French Citroen minimalist car model that was marketed and became popular in Iran of the 1970s under the "Zhiaan" brand name.
(2) Women = Possessions: Whoever designed this misogynistic poster likely thought that it was very clever. The Persian message admonishes men who cover their cars to avoid dents and scratches, yet allow their wives and daughters on the streets, without proper head-to-toe covers. In similar signs, equally insulting to both sexes, women's hijabs are likened to candy-wrappers which keep flies and worms away from your sweets.
(3) Dire economic climate in Iran is endured with a rather surprising sense of humor: In this poetic satire, Majid Morseli (sp?) begs his baby son not to pee, given the shortage and high prices of diapers.
(4) [This item is from mid-July, but I just learned about it] Anti-Semitism in action: Miami man arrested with gasoline canisters, just in the nick of time before he could set fire to a condominium complex (which he had already sprinkled with gasoline) to "kill all the f-ing Jews" inside.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- California Governor Jerry Brown's Climate Summit embraced by leaders worldwide, but not by Washington.
- US News & World Report's latest ranking places UCSB 5th among America's public universities; 30th overall.
- Apple Computer introduces three new iPhone models: Xr, Xs, Xs Max.
- Under the hashtag #TheCensor_And_I, Iran's artists share their encounters with absurd censorship rules.
- Eagerly awaiting "A Star Is Born": Bradley Cooper directing/singing and Lady Gaga in first starring role.
- Persian music: A silly song, which I don't quite understand, but find funny nonetheless!
- For my Persian-speaking readers: You'd appreciate this video if you have ever misunderstood song lyrics!
- Funny animals: Here's what happens when you don't appreciate good deeds!
(6) Follow the money: A complex web of financial transactions among some of the planners and participants of the infamous Trump-Tower meeting between the Trump camp and Russians moved money from Russia and Switzerland to the British Virgin Islands, Bangkok, and a small office park in NJ.
(7) Scientists grow "cerebral organoids" from stem cells: Nicknamed "mini-brains," the collections of 1 million or so neurons resemble different regions of the human brain. This research field, which was born five years ago, is still a long way from mimicking the full functionality of the human brain. After 100 days, the self-organizing mini-brains resemble a portion of the pre-natal brain in the second trimester of pregnancy.
(8) Final thought for the day [real news story]: A group of DC residents complained to city authorities that the owner of Trump International Hotel fails the "good character" test required of anyone who wants to sell liquor.

2018/09/12 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image for 'Trump Survival Guide' (1) Book review: Stone, Gene, The Trump Survival Guide: Everything You Need to Know about Living Through What You Hoped Would Never Happen, unabridged audiobook on 4 CDs, read by Danny Campbell, HarperAudio, 2017. [My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
It seems that I cannot resist any book with "Trump" in its title! The tales are already getting old, as one author after another tells us about the den of dysfunction that is the Trump White House. According to Bob Woodward's just-released book, Trump is given the illusion that he is a powerful leader, going around, dictating actions and issuing orders, while the so-called "adults in the room" tone down outrageous policies and walk back the more misguided pronouncements, with or without his knowledge. Clearly, Trump is dangerous for our country, even in this muted form, given his direct Twitter channel for spreading misinformation and hatred.
The difference with this book, by the author of The Bush Survival Bible, is that it also provides practical strategies for ordinary citizens to cope with the crisis and to move from anger/despair to activism. Stone suggests that concrete action must supplement marches and social-media protests, and he provides names of organizations, people, Web sites, and other resources one can use to effect action. This fairly short book is well worth reading for those who are inclined to act but don't know where to start.
(2) Florence dangers explained: Hurricane Florence is dangerous, not primarily because of strong winds but due to vast storm surges it will create and loads of rain it is expected to dump on the Carolinas, as it stalls on land. Meanwhile, the northern Atlantic Ocean is spinning two other named hurricanes—Isaac and Helene. In the Pacific, tropical storm Olivia is on track to hit Hawaii. Welcome to the hurricane season!
(3) Wildfires: We know how to make wildfires easier to put out and less devastating, but the needed process of clearing the underbrush and controlled burns requires spending money we don't have.
(4) On its release day, Bob Woodward's Fear was already Amazon's 5th best-selling title of 2018: This article explains what the book is about and who might have provided the info it reports.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Carolinians warned: Even if you have ridden out storms before, be mindful that Florence is different!
- EU may sanction Hungary: PM Viktor Orban argues that he has an electoral mandate to roll back democracy.
- Republicans propose new tax cuts, paid for by another $2 trillion increase in the deficit.
- Iran's Revolutionary Guards attack Kurdish forces based in Iraq with less-than-perfect missiles.
- The US men's soccer team beat Mexico 1-0 in a friendly match, scoring after a Mexican player was ejected.
- Quote of the day: "The cure for anything is salt water—sweat, tears or the sea." ~ Isak Dinesen
(6) Republican Senator Susan Collins, a potential "no" vote on Judge Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation, harassed with obscene phone calls and shipments of wire hangers to her office.
(7) Break time: Feeling very productive at Starbucks, sitting outdoors on a 70-degree day (same forecast, as far as the eye can see) and working on the Persian version of an article I have already completed in English.

2018/09/11 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet. Jewish blessing on a silver bowl from Iran (ca. 1918) The historic arch that was the gateway to Shiraz, Iran
Published around 116 years ago in 'Adab' newspaper, this cartoon is claimed by some to be Iran's oldest (1) Iran's history in pictures: [Left] Jewish blessing on a silver bowl from Iran (ca. 1918): "Blessed are you Lord, our God, King of the world, Creator of the fruit of the vine." [Center] The arch at the center-left of this photo is Darvaazeh Shiraz. We used to drive through the historic gateway to enter Shiraz, arriving from Persepolis. Now, the structure is just a tourist attraction, with a multi-lane highway next to it accommodating the vastly increased traffic. [Right] Published around 116 years ago in Adab newspaper, this cartoon is claimed by some to be Iran's oldest. It depicts the difference between Westerners, who help each other in climbing the ladder of success, versus Easterners, who kick/drag each other down.
(2) We remember September 11, 2001: A concrete and steel structure at the Flight 93 Pennsylvania crash site has been dedicated for 9/11's 17th anniversary. It features wind chimes and is named "Tower of Voices."
(3) Voice of America program (from 2015) talks to, and shows samples of music by, Iranian Kurd singer Nasser Razzazi: He discusses his own style, as well as varieties and influences on Kurdish music in general. He maintains that Kurdish music is the only thing that has kept the Kurdish language alive. Starting at the 22:20 mark of the video, Razzazi discusses a popular Kurdish song about Norooz, how it was born in Iraq, and how the Shah's secret police forced Iranian performers to change parts of the lyrics. [30-minute video] Here is an older 27-minute BBC conversation with Nasser Razzazi.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The full phone conversation between Donald Trump and Bob Woodward. [11-minute audio file]
- Bob Woodward's first interview on his new book, Fear: Trump in the White House, to be released today.
- Trump's notebook sketch: Early idea of the wall, to be built by USA and paid for by Mexico. [Bill Mahr]
- Digital Life Design Conf.: As the new Jewish year rolls in, Israelis are pessimistic about peace prospects.
- Try the "language" dish at this eatery: Persian "zabaan" is translated to "language," instead of "tongue"!
- Turning the Sahara Desert into a wind/solar farm has the side benefit of bringing vegetation back to it.
- Quote of the day: "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." ~ African proverb
(5) The Notorious RBG: "I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks." ~ Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, speaking on behalf of women
[I was reminded of this statement while reading the book Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II; look for my review soon.]
(6) Evacuations ordered: Hurricane Florence turns into a category-4 storm, becoming perhaps the strongest storm to hit the US mainland northward of the South Carolina coast. Here is Florence's projected path.

2018/09/10 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, to all who observe it! (1) Happy Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, to all who observe it! The new Hebrew calendar year 5779 begins today. Jewish traditional celebration of Rosh Hashanah, starting on the night before, involves several fruits and vegetables. For example, apple dipped in honey represents sweetness and pomegranate signifies fruitfulness.
(2) A new store in town: Today, I finally ventured into the newly-opened Home Goods store in Goleta's Camino Real Marketplace and was impressed with the selection and prices.
(3) CBS Chief Les Moonves forced out, effective immediately, in light of sexual misconduct allegations: He is by far the highest-profile executive to be ousted since the #MeToo movement began.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump adviser Roger Stone urges the firing of Special Counsel Mueller and "insubordinate hillbilly" Sessions.
- Trump believes that his training makes him eminently qualified as a military leader! [Meme]
- Subway station at NYC's World Trade Center reopens in time for 9/11's 17th anniversary.
- Marziyeh Fariqi performs a Kurdish folk song.
- Vocal ensemble performs a Kurdish song, made famous by Marziyeh Fariqi.
- Teacher puts his safety on the line to demonstrate that predictions of scientific theories can be trusted.
Cover image for 'Furiously Happy' (5) Book review: Lawson, Jenny, Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things, unabridged audiobook on 7 CDs, read by the author, Macmillan Audio, 2015.
[My 2-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Lawson describes her lifelong battle with mental illness, using "funny" stories that are sometimes not very funny. There are genuinely funny, self-deprecating passages in the book, but the humor seems forced for the most part. For example, crass language is used in many passages in lieu of more refined presentation that would entail more work. I suspect that many other sufferers from mental illness would not like the way Lawson makes light of the challenges they face.
This book is a product of the way we Americans would like to be fed everything with a dose of laughter. Laughing is an essential need of a happy and balanced life, but not everything needs to be made fun of. This issue reminds me of a number of other "funny" acts that are not really funny. Take, for example, the case of Jimmy Kimmel's sidekick on TV, the Hispanic Guillermo, whose behavior, imperfect English, and thick accent are used to draw laughter from the audience.
Let me end on a positive note: Lawson suggests that we should celebrate our weirdness and find joy in whatever way we can, despite our limitations and dire circumstances. This is excellent advice for everyone.

2018/09/09 (Sunday): Book review: Mazarei, Merhnoosh, Mina's Revolution: A Novel, CreateSpace, 2015. [My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Cover image for 'Mina's Revolution' Iranian women have been quite prolific over the past couple of decades, publishing novels and other works at an impressive rate. So, why have these authors, coming from a region of the world where giving women permission to drive a car is a big deal, have been so productive intellectually? The credit/blame goes to the Islamic Revolution, which took away much of their hard-earned rights in one fell swoop, while at the same time, giving them much to write about. Both non-working, traditional women (needing intellectual stimulation) and working women (in need of a hobby) have been toiling alongside full-time professional writers to produce a welcome collection of books that, though mostly fictional (in the historical fiction genre), address the challenges of a regressive society in a brave and refreshing style. And the cultural backwardness isn't only limited to the country they left in search of sociopolitical freedom and a better life for themselves and their families; it also exists in diaspora, where many Iranian men still do not view the women in their lives as equal.
After dedicating the book to the free-spirited women of Iran and America, her two countries, and quoting E. L. Doctorow ("The historian will tell you what happened. The novelist will tell you what it felt like."), Mazarei begins her story in Los Angeles, on the day before 9/11, as Mina, a woman in her late 40s, barely makes it to her flight out of LAX for work-related meetings in New York City, where she also plans to see her daughter Shirin after eight years of estrangement; the real beginning, however, is in Borazjan, a city in southern Iran, sometime in 1964, when Mina was 11 or 12.
Description of some more or less routine happenings on the LA-NYC flight ends this segment, which is followed by another segment from late 1979, nine months after Iran's Islamic Revolution, when Mina arrived in the US, via London, as a pregnant twenty-something master's student, bringing along a few personal belongings, some Marzieh audio-tapes, and a National rice-cooker her mother had sent for her brother, whom Mina was visiting.
The pattern of jumping back and forth between dates and locations continues throughout the novel. The chapters are titled with a city and a person/place/event, such as "Tehran—University," "Los Anglels—Shirin," or "New York—Sept. 11th 2001." The narrative, which begins in Los Angeles on 9/10/2001, ends in New York City on 9/11/2001, 8:34 AM, as Mina runs toward WTC's North Tower, where she was to meet Shirin. The reader is left to speculate what will happen, when Flight 11 crashes into the North Tower's north face, between floors 93 and 99, shortly after 8:46 AM.
The "Revolution" of the book's title carries multiple meanings. There is the obvious Islamic Revolution, in which Mina played a role as a young political activist and which eventually drove her to leave her country of birth, and there are multiple inner "revolutions," as Mina tries to reconcile her idealism and big dreams with the challenges of material life and the realities of having to provide for a daughter, who later did not appreciate all of her mother's sacrifices.
As Mina prepares for the much-anticipated meeting with Shirin, her entire life passes before her eyes. She examines all of her key decisions, sacrifices made, and pleasures forfeited, more or less blaming herself for all that had gone wrong, including a marriage devoid of passion, the obsession of those around her with her cooking skills, the death of her idealism, unrealized dreams, and not experiencing an orgasm until later in life. She craved causes that were greater than herself and her immediate family, but which had died because of her own neglect and the impact of her vindictive, anti-intellectual husband. These details fill the pages between the LA beginning and the NYC ending.
The book had been on my to-read list for a while. After growing rather impatient with the story in the first one-third of the book, I was drawn back in when I got to the part where Mina's political activism and the affair with a self-absorbed revolutionary leader were described. Throughout, Mina self-criticizes her wrong decisions, avoidance of confrontation, not looking out for herself, and taming her rebellious self too much.
The novel is well-conceived, but it suffers from typical shortcomings of a self-published title. An expert editor might have advised the author to do away with a couple of superficially-introduced characters (such as Mohammad Ata, on p. 211, presumably one of the 9/11 hijackers) and provide more details about the men whom Mina fancied and the reasons she was drawn to them. These and a number of other editing/formatting problems are minor and do not detract much from the story's nice flow.

2018/09/08 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Louis-Francois Breguet's dial telegraph of 1842 aimed to simplify sending and receiving of telegrams, with no need for learning special codes Shades of the color white, which were left out from those posted over the last couple of days. This 2500-year-old stone tablet, which was stolen some 80 years ago, has been returned to Iran, thanks to a verdict from a Supreme Coutrt judge in NYC. (1) Some interesting images: [Left] Louis-Francois Breguet's dial telegraph of 1842 aimed to simplify sending and receiving of telegrams, with no need for learning special codes. The letter W was left out, as were diacritical marks, which are important in French. (Image credit: IEEE Spectrum, issue of September 2018) [Center] Shades of the color white, which were left out from those posted here over the last couple of days. [Right] This 2500-year-old stone tablet, which was stolen some 80 years ago, has been returned to Iran, thanks to a verdict from a Supreme Court judge in NYC.
(2) Human errors and tech: Many tech-related disasters are attributable fully or in part to human error. So, it is important to understand the reasons for human errors, some of which are due to poor tech design of human-machine interfaces. These 4 case studies are from Human Error, a 1990 book by James Reason (Cambridge University Press), one of the references I have used for my graduate-level course on fault-tolerant computing.
*Nuclear power plant at Three Mile Island     *Chemical plant at Bhopal, India
*Nuclear power plant at Chernobyl    *King's Cross Underground fire
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- How Republicans who hated candidate Trump went on to love him as President: Don Lemon has the tapes!
- Watergate attorney is certain Trump will be impeached, and Trump himself seems to dread impeachment.
- Unenthusiastic guy and a couple of others standing behind Trump are replaced by some pretty faces!
- Russia denies responsibility for the UK chemical assassination attempt, calling the evidence "fake news."
- Three young Kurdish political prisoners (Ramin Panahi, Zanyar Muradi, Loqman Murad) executed in Iran.
- Well, it was bound to happen: Teen falls to death while trying to take a selfie at Yosemite National Park.
- Kids say the darnest things: A very important phone conversation.
- Art from scrap: Making animal shapes by peeling a tangerine.
- History in pictures: NYC's Times Square, 1909.
- Juggling, with a twist (multiple ones, in fact): Four limbs, five balls, six-minute video.
- This 19-year-old domino chain-reaction master talks about her techniques for 15,000-piece creations.
- Signs of the time: Some unintentionally funny signs from Iran, for my Persian-speaking readers.
(4) Final thought for the day: Trump claims he fell asleep during former President Obama's speech. Sad! He missed an opportunity to discover what America is all about, and learn a few big words too.

2018/09/07 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
shades of black Shades of blue Shades of brown Shades of grey Shades of green Shades of orange Shades of pink Shades of red Shades of yellow (1) More color shades: Yesterday, I posted an image with names of 20 shades of purple. Out of curiosity, I searched for shades of a few other colors. Here are the results. The main color always appears on the top left.
(2) She received no credit for the discovery of pulsars, when a Nobel prize was awarded to her supervisor for the feat: Now, Bell Burnell has landed the biggest cash award ($3 million) for her contributions.
(3) Senator Kamala Harris asks US Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, if he could think of any law that regulates the male body. He couldn't.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- More than a dozen senior administration officials have denied being NYT's anonymous op-ed writer.
- Those who think they are controlling Trump, the so-called adults in the room, are strengthening his hand.
- Twitter users have a field day with Trump's claim that he will be remembered like Abraham Lincoln.
- Trump's "Anomenous" becomes the new "Covfefe"!
- NK hacker Park Jin Hyok charged with Sony Pictures hack and WannaCry global ransomware attack.
- This week's SB Independent reports on the celebration held on 8/25 to mark Miye Ota's 100th birthday.
- In a little over two weeks, UCSB will welcome the class of 2022 to its campus by the sea.
(5) A new job title in Iran: Arranging turbans in the nicest possible way. The fee charged depends on the design's complexity. [Persian tweet] [News story (in Persian): Unusual jobs that have sprung up in Iran]
(6) Final thought for the day: Richard Corsi, new dean of engineering at Portland State University, wants to make Portland a brilliant city, which he defines as the next step up from a smart city!

2018/09/06 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Flowers in different shades of purple growing in rocks Names of different shades of purple, for color-challenged people like me More flowers in purple shades (1) Shades of the color purple: [Left] Flowers in different shades of purple growing in rocks. [Center] Names of different shades of purple, for color-challenged people like me. [Right] More flowers in purple shades.
(2) Logical reasoning puzzle: In the following sequence, what is the next number?
4   12   23   69   80   ?         a. 91   b. 100   c. 191   d. 240
(3) CDC deals with emergency: Passengers and crew of an Emirate flight landing in NYC with more than 100 sick individuals have been quarantined. This document highlights Hajj risks from all communicable diseases, including a camel-borne respiratory disease.
(4) A couple of Persian tweets about Iranian female member of parliament Parvaneh Salahshoori: After a speech, male members insulted her, one asking whether her husband had read the speech.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Up to a year and a half ago, Bob Woodward was a great guy, but not after exposing Trump's failings.
- This is Trump's level of understanding of energy sources and their security: Truly scary!
- Melania Trump's back-to-school tweet asks whether students will strive to #BeBest, with no sense of irony!
- Loss of coral reefs will bring humanity a step closer to extinction: And the process has already begun.
- Cartoon of the day: Iranians face a severe shortage of baby diapers. [Image]
- A second cartoon, from The New Yorker: Disgruntled White House employees talk to Bob Woodward. [Image]
- Mashhad, Iran's second largest and holiest city, has become a destination for Iraqi sex tourists.
(6) Tiny machines inside human body may be able to harvest energy from biological cells: Scientists have already demonstrated that a capacitor can be charged by tapping into a frog egg, with the resulting charge used to power tiny, ultra-low-power electronics.
(7) For soccer enthusiasts: Having messed up big-time by not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, the US men's soccer team is back, trying to redeem itself. Here are their next two exhibition matches. Friday, 9/07, vs. Brazil, Fox Sports 1, 4:30 PM PDT; Tuesday, 9/11, vs. Mexico, ESPN, 5:30 PM PDT.
(8) American values ignored: The US has overlooked human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia for decades, and now that Canada is standing up to the Kingdom and getting punished for it economically, the US refuses to get involved, telling the two countries to work it out between themselves.
(9) Resistance inside the White House? Someone claiming to be a Trump administration insider has revealed, anonymously, that s/he is working to curb Trump's worst instincts and brands himself/herself as a hero. What would be heroic is to expose this president, as Bob Woodward has done, and to help remove him from office, not pick and choose from his decisions and orders via an extra-Constitutional process.

2018/09/05 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of Walter Isaacson's 'Leonardo da Vinci' (1) Book review: Isaacson, Walter, Leonardo da Vinci: The Secrets of History's Most Creative Genius, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Alfred Molina, Simon & Schuster Audio, 2017.
[My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Isaacson has several very impressive biographies to his credit. They include biographical books on Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, and Henry Kissinger. This book, like Isaacson's other biographical works, is based on meticulous research. Normally, writing about a 15th-century personality would be difficult, but da Vinci was a very helpful subject in this regard, because he kept detailed notebooks in which he recorded his ideas, sketches, designs, attempts at solving mathematical problems, records of his expenses, and almost everything else he did.
Da Vinci always carried a small notebook with him and sketched people in various poses, as he encountered them, because he felt he might forget important details. Later, he combined his acute eye for detail with a comprehensive study of the human body, muscles in particular, to produce more realistic paintings and sculptures. Isaacson estimates that about a quarter of da Vinci's notebooks have survived, but then points out that he had more information to work with here than provided by the entire collection of Steve Jobs' documents and e-mails!
Da Vinci was easily distracted and seldom finished projects which he started. For example, he spent much time on building an enormous statue of a man on horse, for which he devoted countless hours perfecting his knowledge of horses, their motions, and structure of their bones and muscles. He led the project to the stage of producing a single-piece casting mold that was larger than anything attempted earlier, but the statue was never built. Ditto for many paintings, bridges, buildings, weapons, and flying contraptions he dreamt up, all of which remained at the sketch or design stage.
Da Vinci was quite unique in the way he combined art and science. His wide-ranging passions that contributed to his unique position at the art-science boundary included theatrical production, architecture, anatomy, physiology, and engineering. His endless curiosity, careful observation, and playful imagination made him arguably the most creative genius in history.
In a way, da Vinci needed to be a creative genius in order to fit in. He was a misfit in many ways: illegitimate, a homosexual, a vegetarian, and left-handed, during a period of history when each of these attributes was enough for being sidelined or even expurgated. He is considered by many a true model of a Renaissance man.
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Tech humor: Developer of iPhone's autocorrect feature owns up to his mistakes and apologizes to us!
- Visualizing Iran's currency devaluation, in very rough terms, by considering what 20K Tomans buys you.
- Illusion of control: The world is full of buttons that don't actually do anything, by design!
- Dutch company starts a new trend: A multi-level floating dairy farm near the center of Rotterdam.
- Sign of the times: "Waxing center" ad displayed in a prominent location on the UCSB Campus. [Photo]
- Dancing to the Azeri tune "Sani Deililar" ("They're Calling You"): A new social-media campaign/craze.
- "It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see." ~ Henry David Thoreau
(3) Are US Democrats shooting themselves in the foot? The trend is clear: Inexperienced outsiders are winning primary elections and ousting incumbent Democrats at state and national levels. In one sense, this is refreshing, because incumbent Democrats aren't any less guilty than Republicans in the current state of our politics and our government's sell-out to big business. Yet, I can't help but fear that these fresh faces will not have the know-how and support structure to defeat the well-funded Republican fear/smut machinery in November. But I do hope that my fear proves misguided.

2018/09/04 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Brazil's National Museum in Rio gutted by fire My first pomegranate purchase of the season Art Deco toaster, 1920s (1) Some newsworthy/interesting images: [Left] Brazil's National Museum gutted by fire: Unimaginable loss of treasure in the 200-year-old Rio institution. [Center] My first pomegranate purchase of the season: They arrive in Santa Barbara much later than in Los Angeles. [Right] Art Deco toaster, 1920s.
(2) This "equal earth projection" map has been developed by scientists to correct centuries of misrepresentation that depicts Europe & North America much larger, and Africa & South America much smaller, than their true sizes. On some current maps, Greenland appears nearly as large as Africa.
(3) Will Donald Trump's "friends" learn from the fate of punching-bag Jeff Sessions or do they think they are somehow special and utterly indispensable to The Don?
(4) New poll shows surging disapproval rating for Trump: But if we learned anything from 2016, it's to not let our participation slip when polls favor us.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Bob Woodward explains to Donald Trump how he tried to talk to him about his forthcoming book.
- Bob Woodward's forthcoming book reportedly tells of Mattis privately expressing his disdain for Trump.
- Soccer analogy: Trump wants Jeff Sessions to play goalie, but he wants to be a striker.
- Did you know that fighting is going on in Tripoli, Libya? Rival militias have caused 50 deaths just this week.
- Franklin family criticizes pastor for inappropriately political eulogy that included little about Aretha.
- Crooks in the White House: Kushner amassed $350K in unpaid fines while heading the family business.
- Cornell University's engineering class of 2022 contains equal numbers of men and women.
- iPad that rolls up to fit in your pocket: The final product will likely be more compact than this prototype.
- A beautiful Persian dance: Short 1-minute segment of a longer routine.
- "[A] dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher ... or, as his wife would have it, an idiot." ~ Douglas Adams
(6) Reza Khandan, Nasrin Sotoudeh's husband, who posted updates about the human rights activist's latest imprisonment, has been arrested in Iran.
(7) Google is trying to fix the URL mess: As they stand now, URLs are pretty much unreadable, because they contain much junk in the form of random-looking symbol strings. So, it's impossible to deduce which site you are connecting to and whether the site can be trusted. The long, unwieldy URLs won't even display in full on most browsers, particularly on mobile devices, creating deception opportunities for cyber-criminals. Fixing the mess has proven more difficult than initially thought, leading to the need for more effort.

2018/09/03 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photo of Iranologist Ehsan Yarshater (1) Ehsan Yarshater [1920-2018] passed away on September 1: An Ironologist and Editor of Encyclopedia Iranica, Yarshater was the founder and director of Center for Iranian Studies, and Hagop Kevorkian Professor Emeritus of Iranian Studies at Columbia University. He was widely honored by awards and scholarships and by lecture series bearing his name. A major loss to Iran lovers and scholars worldwide. May he rest in peace!
[Web site] [Wikipedia entry] [Encyclopedia Iranica] [BBC tribute]
(2) An average of 10 ships have sunk per year over the past decade because of liquefaction, when solid cargo loaded directly onto the ships' holds turns into liquid.
(3) Modern Persian music: Ziba Shirazi's "Mard-e Man" ("My Man"). This rather romantic song is labeled by as "explicit"!
(4) "Hunting for Peru's Lost Civilizations": This 7-minute TED talk by Sarah Parcak is one of several talks on what is known as "space archaeology," the discovery of ancient sites using aerial and satellite imagery.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump celebrates Labor Day by criticizing the head of the country's largest federation of labor unions.
- Former President Obama's awe-inspiring eulogy at John McCain's memorial service in Washington, DC.
- Barack Obama and Meghan McCain slammed by Trump supporters for their John McCain eulogies.
- Mother of a vacationing family of five is the only survivor of a kayaking accident in Wisconsin.
- Billboard reminds Texans that the Lyin' Trump, who now supports Ted Cruz, has blasted him many times.
- California leads again: New law improves transparency through public access to internal police documents.
- US salaries of holders of 4-year college degrees: Starting, median, and different percentiles. [Article]
Happy Labor Day: Banner, with US flag (6) Not much to celebrate for labor: Today is Labor Day in the US. The first Labor Day Parade was held in New York City on September 5, 1882. On that day, 136 years ago, participants began from City Hall, marched past viewing stands at Union Square, and assembled in Wendel's Elm Park for a picnic, concert, and speeches. This year's celebration is marred by broad assaults on, and proposed curtailments of, labor rights, including restrictions on unionization, elimination or reduction of minimum wage, relaxation of safety regulations, stagnant wages, and arbitrary dismissals. Such assaults often come with misguided laws and misleading slogans, such as "Right to Work," which really means crushing labor unions to keep wages low.
(7) A final thought for this Labor Day: "Of life's two chief prizes, beauty and truth, I found the first in a loving heart and the second in a laborer's hand." ~ Khalil Gibran

2018/09/01 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Taking frozen long-johns off the washing line, 1940s Iran's pyramid: A cartoon by Mana Neyestani III Anna S. C. Blake, founder of a manual-training school bearing her name, that eventually became UCSB (1) Some interesting images: [Left] Taking frozen long-johns off the washing line, 1940s. [Center] Iran's pyramid: A cartoon by Mana Neyestani III. [Right] This photograph, shot through a frame with glass, is from a UCSB library exhibit that tells the story of how a "manual training" school, founded in 1892 by Anna S. C. Blake, a wealthy Bostonian who relocated to Santa Barbara, became known for its progressive and holistic educational programs and was eventually absorbed into the UC system to become UCSB.
(2) Not the enemy of the people: In a wonderfully-written and highly emotional essay, the wife of a journalist who died of cancer at the age of 41, calls out President Trump for his callous attacks on the press.
(3) Matrescence: A word meaning transition to motherhood, in the same way that adolescence means transition to adulthood. Both transitions are difficult due to hormonal changes, but, whereas adolescence has been studied extensively, there is much less work on matrescence, which is often mistaken for postpartum depression. An excellent 6-minute TED talk!
(4) Fake news from Saudi Arabia: With nearly 7000 people killed and more than 10,000 injured in Yemen, the Saudis have the audacity to maintain that they helped "alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people."
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- "Saturday Night Live" will re-air its John McCain episode tonight. I've heard it's really funny!
- Spot-on observation on the weirdness of waking up in the middle of the night to tweet in all caps. [Meme]
- Some answers about how our internal clocks perceive and keep time.
- Persian poetry: An exquisite love poem from Sa'adi.
- Persian music: wonderful violin performance on the street.
- The dance tune from "Zorba the Greek" performed with tar, a traditional musical instrument from Iran.
(6) Bald lie: "The president asked me to be here on behalf of a grateful nation, to pay a debt of honor and respect to a man who served our country throughout his life, in uniform and in public office." ~ VP Mike Pence
(7) Iranian politician Mir-Hossein Mousavi, after 8 years of living under house arrest and before it: Eight years of effective imprisonment, with no trial or even charges. [Photos]
(8) Quote: "We gather here to mourn the passing of American greatness. The real thing — not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly." ~ Meghan McCain (John's daughter)

2018/08/30 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Pizzeria augments the 'table' at the center of pizza boxes with chairs! Princess Esmat al-Dowleh, daughter of Nasar al-Din Shah Qajar, in a photo taken by her husband in the late 1800s The stain on Senator John McCain's legacy (1) Some interesting images: [Left] Pizzeria augments the "table" at the center of pizza boxes with chairs! [Center] It is often said that Iranian women are beautiful. I agree, but standards of beauty change over time. This image shows Princess Esmat al-Dowleh [1855/6-1905], daughter of Nasar al-Din Shah Qajar, in a photo taken by her husband in the late 1800s. [Right] The stain on Senator John McCain's legacy.
(2) National University of Singapore students demonstrate a quadcopter drone that is fully powered by the sun. This Wired article, which includes a video, stipulates on the size and weight scalability of the concept.
(3) Climate change: Miami's water-drainage canals, which help with getting rid of rainwater from its very flat surface, constitute the world's most-complex water management system. But it only takes a few feet of sea-level rise to overwhelm the system and put Miami under water.
(4) Forget supersonic and hypersonic planes: Airlines and airplane manufacturers are working on 20-hour flights, featuring on-board gyms, beds, and other amenities.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- VP Mike Pence tweets wistfully about "a more respectful time" and is called out for his hypocrisy. [Tweet]
- Trump wanted to buy decades of "dirt" that National Enquirer had on him.
- "Will the last GOP statesman out of the Congress please turn off the light?" [Cartoon about John McCain]
- Some customers of In-n-Out cannot stomach the fast-food chain's donation to California Republicans.
- UCSB upperclassmen scare the already-terrified freshmen in the campus student newspaper.
- Informative maps that show how land is used in the continental United States.
- Nostalgia: Ads for products and services, from Iranian print media of yore. Dates are unspecified.
(6) Human Error in Computer Systems: This is the title of a 1983 book by Robert W. Bailey, which I have used as a reference for my graduate-level course on fault-tolerant computing.
Hand-printing errors, which arose when manually-written texts and filled-out forms were keyed in by operators, are no longer common with today's technology, but examining this table from Appendix A (p. 123), listing error rates in interpreting hand-printed English alphanumeric characters, is instructive nonetheless, particularly as it provides us with a sense of the even greater error-proneness of the Persian script.
The least error-prone alphanumeric symbols, with error rates of less than 1%, are: W, M, 3, 7, A, 9, E, C.
Near the high end of the error spectrum, with error rates of around 5%, are: N, 0, 5, J, V, G.
Particularly error-prone are the letters Z (13%) and I (25%).
The book's Appendix B (pp. 124-126) discusses methods of quantifying readability.

2018/08/29 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Meeting with FIFA President, Trump was gifted a set of referee cards and immediately issued a red card to the media (1) Meeting with FIFA President about the 2026 World Cup in North America, Trump was gifted a set of referee cards and immediately issued a red card to the media. Robert Mueller reportedly has a set of the same cards!
(2) Tweets, sermons, speeches, they are all being archived and will be used as evidence: Apparently, an attorney representing the US in the international tribunal to which Iran has taken a complaint about the unfairness and debilitating effects of US sanctions, has introduced as evidence a part of a sermon/speech by Supreme Leader Khamenei, in which he mused that the economic chaos in the country is not due to sanctions but internal mismanagement.
(3) [For map lovers] Free to AAA members via local branches: A collection of historical maps, with the first in the series being a 1930 map of Metropolitan Los Angeles.
(4) Are college librarians entitled to academic freedom? The question was put to test during negotiations between UC administration and UC-AFT (American Federation of Teachers), with the former arguing that academic freedom pertains only to faculty members and students in classroom settings and the latter favoring extension of the privilege to librarians, who are already considered academic employees. Such an extension seems reasonable in my view, given that, in choosing books and journal holdings, librarians need to exercise independent judgment, without pressure from outside groups. [Faculty Associations' letter of support]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- California becomes the first major US state to mandate carbon-free electricity generation by 2045.
- Hyperpolyglots, people who speak dozens of languages, provide insights into learning and brain function.
- A fun place to visit: Museum of Illusions, 6751 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles. (Also, in SF)
- Imprisonment of political dissenters continues in Iran: Facebook post about Roya Saghiri.
- Iranian folk music: A song from the western Iranian province of Lorestan.
- Persian poetry: A poem by Mahasti Ganjavi, a female poet who lived nine centuries ago. [Read]
(6) Sexism in US Tennis: Female tennis player was charged with a violation for flipping her shirt, which she had been wearing backwards, whereas male players go bare-chested all the time with no fines.
(7) No, months that have 5 Sundays, 5 Mondays, and 5 Tuesdays aren't rare or very special: Claims such as this one pop up on social media quite frequently. So, here I try to dispel one such myth. Any 31-day month has five instances of its first three days of the week (on the dates 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 for the first one, 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 for the second one, and 3, 10, 17, 24, 31 for the third one). On average, one in every 7 months begins on a Sunday. Given that there are seven 31-day months in every year, one should expect a month with 5 Sundays, 5 Mondays, and 5 Tuesdays to occur once per year on average.

2018/08/28 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Time magazine covers over the past few months, telling the story of Trump in a storm of his own making (1) Time magazine covers over the past few months, telling the story of Trump in a storm of his own making.
(2) Trump's hollow comments on Jacksonville mass shooting, coming after a long delay: "That was a terrible thing, indeed, and how it happens, nobody really knows. But they've done an incredible job down in Jacksonville as they always do in Florida, and throughout the country, but — condolences."
(3) All crooks cry "witch hunt" when exposed: In 2002, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, Pope Francis' right-hand man and closest adviser, characterized media reports of abuse by Catholic priests as "witch hunts." [Source: Time magazine] [Uncredited on-line photo of Maradiaga with Pope Francis]
(4) Quote: "We accept the moral obligation of Germany, in whose name terrible injustice was committed under the Nazis." ~ Heiko Maas, German FM, on the deportation from US of former Nazi guard Jaklw Palij
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Donald Trump's pettiness on full display over how he dealt with Senator John McCain's death.
- Crooks in the White House: Kushner companies fined for falsifying construction permits.
- Trump supporter Paris Dennard suspended by CNN for revelations about his record of sexual misconduct.
- Brazil may ditch democracy to elect its own version of Trump, "law and order" candidate Jair Bolsonaro.
- A woman who had tried everything for irritable bowel syndrome was cured by a placebo self-treatment.
- Lessons from Cyrus the Great on how to run a multi-ethnic, multi-faith society. [2-minute video]
- Iran's parliament refers President Rouhani to the judiciary over the mishandling of Iran's economic woes.
- "Hoghoogh-e Bashar" ("Bashar's rights") vs. "Hoghoogh-e bashar" ("Human rights"): Cartoon from 2013.
(6) This amazing 1-minute video of all NYT front pages since its initial publication in 1852 clearly shows how the front-page format has changed from exclusively textual to an increasing proportion of images.
(7) We have all heard about official flowers, birds, and fruit for states, but did you know that California also has a state dinosaur, Auggie? [Image]
(8) Wrong number, right person: A year ago, a man mistakenly sent a message to a woman he didn't know on WhatsApp. They went on their first date that night and got married three months later! [From: Time magazine]

2018/08/27 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Katherine Johnson, science pioneer of the 'Hidden Figures' fame, is celebrating her 100th birthday today Racism in Iran: A neighborhood in the southern city of Yazd puts up a sign to ban Afghans from entering Mevlana Museum (Rumi's tomb) in Konya, Turkey (1) Topical and interesting images: [Left] Katherine Johnson, science pioneer of the "Hidden Figures" fame, is celebrating her 100th birthday today. [Center] Racism in Iran: A neighborhood in the southern city of Yazd puts up a sign to ban Afghans from entering. [Right] Mevlana Museum (Rumi's tomb) in Konya, Turkey.
(2) Investing in research and development: R&D spending by the top ten countries in the world ranges from $480B (USA) to $40B (Russia). Iran appears near the southeast corner of this chart with $4B.
[P.S.: Per-capita spending stats would have been more useful.]
(3) Cyber border-walls: The national security challenge of the future does not come from people walking across physical borders but from hackers crossing cyber-boundaries.
(4) The reading brain: UCLA neuroscientist Maryanne Wolf, author of Reader, Come Home, is horrified by what has happened to her ability to concentrate in the age of electronic communication and e-readers.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- France joins Germany in maintaining that Europe can no longer rely on the US for its security.
- The links between the men behind Brexit and the Trump Campaign. [NPR's "Fresh Air" podcast]
- Instead of shielding students, SoE Betsy DeVos has chosen to protect friends operating for-profit colleges.
- Persian-language tweet of the day: Calling for civility in social-media interactions.
- College diploma at 105: Now go and update your LinkedIn profile, young man!
- Iranian diva Googoosh's full concert at Hollywood Bowl (May 12, 2018). [114-minute video]
(6) On the power of regulations: "Facebook's conduct with Cambridge Analytica was illegal in the U.K. and punished. The same conduct was only 'irresponsible' in the U.S. with no legal consequences, and nothing to prevent it happening again." ~ Communications of the ACM Editor-in-Chief Andrew A. Chien, writing in the September 2018 issue of the ACM publication
(7) Architecture for neural-network processing assist: This image shows the block diagram and chip area allocation for a domain-specific architecture to significantly speed up the processing functions needed for deep neural networks. [Source: Communications of the ACM, Vol. 61, No. 9, September 2018, pp. 50-59]
(8) "RBG: Hero, Icon, Dissenter": This critically acclaimed CNN-produced film, which I enjoyed at a theater a couple of months ago, is set for TV broadcast on Monday, September 3 (CNN, 6:00 and 9:00 PM PDT).
(9) [Final thought for the day] The late Senator John McCain's wishes for his funeral include speeches by former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama (both having defeated him in elections) and explicit instructions that Donald Trump not be invited to attend.

2018/08/26 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Colorful flowers, in 4 panels Logical reasoning puzzle: Which of the three options at the bottom belongs where we have a question mark? A kindergarten in Helsinki, Finland, 1890 (1) Some interesting images: [Left] Colorful flowers. [Center] Logical reasoning puzzle: Which of the three options at the bottom belongs where we have a question mark? [Right] A kindergarten in Helsinki, 1890.
(2) Leaking of phone numbers almost as bad as SSNs: Identity thieves can easily integrate data from multiple database breaches, because all databases contain phone numbers.
(3) "If You Could Read My Mind": Guitarist Pavlov plays a Mediterranean fusion version of the oldie classic. (Song starts at the 1:56 mark of this video.) [Post inspired by a PBS concert I watched on KCET last night.]
(4) Multiple deaths and injuries reported for the magnitude-6.0 quake in the western Iranian city of Kermanshah. The devastated region has been shaking continuously over the past few months.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona dead at 81, a day after ceasing treatment for cancer.
- Pulitzer-Prize-winning playwright and screenwriter Neil Simon dead at 91.
- Hawaii grapples with Hurricane Lane. [Pictorial]
- The go-to button is again pressed for Jacksonville shooting victims and the matter will soon be forgotten.
- NotPetya: The fast-spreading Russian malware behind the most-devastating cyber-attack ever.
- Venmo: The default public setting of all transactions, which few bother to change, creates many risks.
- Iran's Finance Minister Masoud Karbasian impeached by the parliament amid economic woes.
- Miye, the matriarch of my son's Aikido school in Goleta, celebrated her 100th birthday yesterday.
(6) Trump expresses sympathies and respect to McCain's family, without praising the man himself: "My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!"
(7) John McCain was a hero and a decent man, but we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that by giving voice to Sarah Palin and her ilk, he unleashed the Trump monster!
(8) College soccer: In its second match of the season, the UCSB Men's soccer team took on UC Riverside this evening. The final score was UCSB 3-1 UCR, with UCSB scoring in minutes 38, 56, and 90, and UCR scoring on a defensive mix-up in minute 85. By the way, we Gauchos are excited that this year's College Cup (the final-four tournament of college soccer) will be held here at Harder Stadium on December 7 and 9, 2018.

Cover image for the book 'Homo Deus' 2018/08/25 (Saturday): Book review: Harari, Yuval Noah, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Derek Perkins, Harper Audio, 2017. [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This book complements Harari's 2017 book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, which I have reviewed before on GoodReads and elsewhere. In Sapiens, Harari took an expansive look at human history, not just spanning a few millenia for which we have written historical records of human development and the rise and fall of empires, but beginning with our genetic ancestors and ending with how the human species is changing as we speak.
In Homo Deus, Harari, professor of history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, presents an account of how our species came to dominate the Earth, wiping out many other species, including competing human species (such as Neanderthals), and changing the world around us, to the extent that nothing resembles its natural state. My first exposure to this new book was through an engaging UCSB lecture by its author on February 27, 2017.
The theme of Homo Deus is that we are moving from the two previous stages of authority in human societies, that is, theism (listen to the Bible or some other holy book) and the more-recent humanism (listen to your feelings or inner voice), to what he calls dataism (listen to the data, that is, to Google and Amazon). In other words, authority is now shifting from human beings to algorithms, which are, or can be, much more accurate in arriving at correct decisions.
Presently, human feelings are the supreme source of authority, as reflected in the sayings "customer is always right," "beauty is in the eye of the beholder," and "if it feels good, do it!" And this kind of humanistic thinking permeates every facet of our lives, be it economics, aesthetics, education, ethics, and so on. The main threat to this humanistic view is emerging from laboratories, where scientists are becoming convinced that feelings are nothing but biochemical algorithms.
Humanism is based in large parts on the notion of free will, which is facing increasing skepticism. The day isn't far when Google or Amazon know you better than you do yourself. This supremacy of data is already a reality in medicine, where genes can predict future ailments, even though the patient "feels" perfectly fine. Today, we are in the process of completing the hacking of human brain. It is possible that we reach the conclusion that the brain isn't the mind or that we can stop the march of technology, which is, after all, not deterministic, but there is an immense momentum in the direction of algorithms taking over our lives.
Algorithms that are smarter and more capable than us humans may someday discard us, and our biochemical existence, as a mere nuisance. In a way, such algorithms may look upon us the way we now look at pets and other animals. The Internet of all things will provide perfect information for all decisions, obviating the need for reliance on our subjective decision-making capability, which is ill-suited to the needs of today, having evolved for coping with challenges of life in the African savannah.
Technology has already weakened some human abilities. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors had much more acute senses of taste and smell that helped them refrain from eating poisonous mushrooms, for example. They were also better at interpreting environmental cues, because their survival depended on these abilities. Now, you buy your food at the supermarket and put it in your mouth, while watching TV or reading e-mail, barely tasting or smelling what you eat. Likewise, the day may come when we cannot navigate on our own and become totally dependent on Google Maps.
I end my review of Homo Deus with an interesting personal story Harari told during his lecture at UCSB: Jerusalem is a hotbed of chaos and conflict. However, there is one day each year when Jews, Muslims, and Christians come together and chant the same slogans in condemning the annual Gay Pride Parade!

2018/08/24 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet. Montmartre, Paris, 1952
Night fishing in Hawaii, 1948 Location of Shockley Lab, where the first silicon devices were fabricated (391 San Antonio Rd., Mountain View, CA), marked by IEEE as the birthplace of Silicon Valley (1) History in pictures: [Left] Montmartre, Paris, 1952. [Center] Night fishing in Hawaii, 1948. [Right] Location of Shockley Lab, where the first silicon devices were fabricated (391 San Antonio Rd., Mountain View, CA), marked by IEEE as the birthplace of Silicon Valley.
(2) Trump continues to hit his favorite punching bag: I am beginning to think that perhaps Jeff Sessions, by not resigning after much indignity, is making sacrifices to save our country from Trump. Ditto for John Kelly.
(3) The stock market continues to thrive, despite worsening legal troubles for Trump: Investors are essentially saying, "Tell me something I don't know, or at least I didn't expect." And this is why big-investor-supported Republicans might never turn on Trump.
(4) Part of the new Republican platform on sanctity of marriage: Marriage is between a man, a woman, a few mistresses, and a porn star or two thrown in for good measure.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Hurricane Lane (now category 4) is the closest a category-5 storm has ever gotten to Hawaii.
- Trump attacks one felon (Michael Cohen) while smothering lavish praise on another (Paul Manafort).
- A reminder that the trend of declining unemployment rate dates back to 2012. [Chart]
- Don't want Google to track you? Well, tough luck: You have no choice, especially if you use Android.
- Growing and harvesting walnuts in Australia. [4-minute video]
- Kabob, Iranian style: For your viewing pleasure, as dinner hour approaches [1-minute video]
(6) The US President communicates (if you can call this communication) with his Attorney General via Twitter: He has no understanding of the fact that justice does not care about this side and the other side. Judges, prosecutors, and juries can have any party affiliation, without affecting their work. There is no law that requires a Republican to be investigated or prosecuted by a Republican. [Tweet]
(7) Republicans flip-flop on Jeff Sessions and his potential firing: Rather then abandoning Trump, now that they realize he is a crook, several Republicans have rallied to his support. Here is what Senator Lindsey Graham had said about the possible firing of Sessions: "I'm 100% behind Jeff Sessions. If Jeff Sessions is fired, there will be holy hell to pay." And here is Graham's most recent musing about the matter: "The President's entitled to having an attorney general he has faith in, somebody that is qualified for the job and I think there will come a time sooner rather than later where it will be time to have a new face and a fresh voice at the Department of Justice. Clearly, Attorney General Sessions doesn't have the confidence of the President."
(8) My daughter and I went for an evening walk on UCSB's West Campus beach and got soaked when we made a run to reach the stairs, as decent-sized waves came crashing in!
(9) College soccer: After an impressive 7-0 win in an exhibition game against cross-town rival Westmont, the UCSB Gauchos Men's soccer team faced St. John's of New York in its season opener tonight. UCSB won the match 2-0, scoring on a header from a cross coming for the left and on an unassisted fast-break goal.

2018/08/23 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The latest title in 'The Little Golden Book' educational series for children Trump Tower in a prison compound Offering free gas to customers, without any real possibility of losing money (1) A collection of funny images: [Left] The latest title in 'The Little Golden Book' educational series for kids. [Center] Prison compound. [Right] Offering free gas to customers, without any real possibility of losing money.
(2) Quote of the day: "Men cannot control themselves ... so all of society has to adapt." ~ Gwendoline Goipeault, activist at Femmes Solidaires, on open-air urinals installed around Paris (This quote can be re-used for mandatory hijab laws in Iran and elsewhere.)
(3) The woman who was transformed in two decades from the belle of the progressive SF Bay Area (wife of Mayor Gavin Newsom) to the princess of MAGA-land (new love interest of Donald Trump Jr.).
(4) Michael Cohen has deleted this December 19, 2015, tweet aimed at Hillary Clinton: "When you go to prison for defrauding America and perjury, your room and board will be free!"
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Here's what "the failing NYT" has to say about Michael Cohen's allegations and plea deal on its front page.
- Can you believe Trump supporters are still chanting "Lock Her Up," as close Trump advisers face jail time?
- Heroic rescue efforts in Kerala, India, after the region's historic floods.
- Missing-person case solved: Undocumented immigrant charged with the murder of Iowa jogger.
- How smart air-conditioners and water-heaters can be hijacked to bring the power grid down.
- Hundreds of Facebook accounts linked to Iran's global disinformation campaign shut down.
- Saudi Arabia set to execute a female political activist for the first time.
- Parody of Fox News coverage, while Cohen and Manafort were in court! [Image]
(6) [Humor from Twitter] CNN, NBC, BBC, ABC, AP: "Manafort and Cohen guilty!"
Fox News: "Hey, do you ever stare at one spot and zone out for a while? Crazy, right? What's up with that?"
(7) Humor from The Onion (picture Cohen & Giuliani): Law school applications skyrocket upon realization that any idiot can become a lawyer.
(8) "Loving Vincent": This is the title of a feature-length animated movie, screened at UCSB's Campbell Hall last night, as the last installment of this year's free summer cinema series. Hand-painted by some 100 artists, the film, which mimics Vincent van Gogh's oil-painting style, is an apt artistic tribute to an extraordinary artist! The story revolves around a young man who goes to van Gogh's last hometown to deliver the troubled artist's final letter, but ends up investigating the circumstances surrounding his death. I learned from the film that van Gogh painted for only 8 years, leaving behind some 800 pieces of work. [IMDB entry for the 2017 film, which includes a trailer and many photos]

2018/08/22 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Mobile office, 1961 Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles, 1971 Albert Einstein in front of bookcase, undated photo (1) History in pictures: [Left] Mobile office on the road, 1961. [Center] Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles, 1971. [Right] Albert Einstein in front of bookcase, undated photo.
(2) Putin's new hacking targets: Conservative think tanks that have broken with Trump and favor continued sanctions against Russia, expose oligarchs, or press for human rights.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Having decided they can't rely on America, the Germans are debating the merits of getting their own nukes.
- This bunch of mint I bought from Sprouts today is the freshest I have seen in my neck of the woods!
- I get sick just reading about this $75 burger: Forget about taking a bite of one! [Source: Time magazine]
- Get ready for a nationwide "free museum day" on Saturday, September 22, 2018.
- Humor: Amazon introduces its first regional adaptation of Echo: Shirin, or Alexa for Iranians.
- Persian pop music: Solo-violin rendition of the popular oldie "Shaneh."
- Azeri-Persian music: Aftab Choir performs "Sari Gelin" and a Persian version of it ("Daman-Keshan").
Cover image for Tom Hanks' 'Uncommon Type' (4) Book review: Hanks, Tom, Uncommon Type: Some Stories, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by the author and others, Random House Audio, 2017.
[My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This collection of short stories by the double-Oscar-winning actor is a delight: Tender, absorbing, and quite varied, all 17 stories feature some kind of antique manual typewriter (Hanks collects them), either as a major element of the story or as an embellishment. From stories about immigrants fleeing persecution and soldiers distressed by combat to whimsical or funny tales involving space or time travel, for example, Hanks comes through with sweetness and compassion. Not a literary work, for sure, but enjoyable nonetheless.
(5) Spying plot by Iran alleged: Two men have been charged with serving as agents of Iran, monitoring Americans and a Jewish center. US Justice Department asserts that the men are part of a plot by the Iranian government to identify and eliminate political opponents.
(6) Trump's fall is accelerating: Michael Cohen's guilty plea includes admission that he broke campaign finance laws in collaboration with Trump and under his direction. Paul Manafort is convicted on 8 of the 18 charges brought against him. Maybe now the Republicans in Congress will take their heads out of the sand and do something to restore dignity to our government!

2018/08/21 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Griffiths Park Observatory sits majestically in front of the Los Angeles skyline: Day and night shots, at slightly different angles (1) Griffiths Park Observatory sits majestically in front of the Los Angeles skyline: Day and night shots, at slightly different angles.
(2) Move over oil, water is the new commodity to fight over! US and Mexico have been squabbling over the effects of climate change on Rio Grande's water deficit and Israel-Palestine-Jordan are all drawing water from Jordan River, causing the Dead Sea to become even deader.
(3) Stratolaunch unveils new rockets and space plane to launch from world's largest airplane: Using a plane to launch spacecraft is cost-effective, because much of the fuel in a conventional rocket is spent for getting through the lower parts of the atmosphere, with its relatively high density.
(4) Celebration of greatness, on both the giving and receiving ends, is awe-inspiring: The just-depated "Queen of Soul," Aretha Franklin, pays tribute to Carole King at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Dearth of drinking water and spreading of diseases main problems as floodwaters recede in Kerala, India.
- The US healthcare mess: A co-pay of $285 for a generic drug that an uninsured person can buy for $40!
- A sexual-solicitation trial in Thailand has surprising links to Paul Manafort and Russian oligarchs.
- Rudy Giuliani pulls a Schrodinger after CNN interview: Truth both is and isn't truth!
- Melania Trump addresses cyber-bullying summit: Donald was apparently not briefed on his wife's speech!
- The Eagles' "Greatest Hits" surpasses Michael Jackson's "Thriller" as best-selling album of all time.
- Robotics expert Nancy Amato is the first woman to lead the Department of Computer Science at U. Illinois.
- Interesting read on the rampant overuse of exclamation points in electronic communication.
(6) Archaeologists discover a lost city under a Kansas rural field: The unearthed ruins are believed to belong to Etzanoa, a city that was home to some 20,000 people between 1450 and 1700.
(7) For my SoCal readers: Excellent news programs on LA's independent station, KCET; DW News, 4:30-5:00, BBC World News America, 5:00-5:30; BBC World News, 6:00-6:30 (overlaps with KOCE's PBS Newshour).
(8) Final thought for the day: Former enablers and supporters of Trump are trying to wash themselves clean of the association, but I am not sure any amount of washing will remove the stench.

2018/08/20 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Sketch of the western Iranian city of Kermanshah from 1840 (1) Iran's recent history: This drawing is said to depict the western Iranian city of Kermanshah in the year 1840. It belonged to Pascal Coste, French architect and orientalist [1787-1879], whose Wikipedia entry reads, in part: "In Iran Coste and the painter Eugene Flandin were authorised to visit Azerbaijan, Isfahan, Shiraz and the ruins of Ecbatana, Bistun, Taq-e Bostan, Kangavar, Pasargadae and Persepolis, where he made many sketches."
(2) Perils of social media (actual UCSB e-mail alert, received today): "The UCSB Police Department received a report of a burglary that occurred at San Clemente Villages on 8/20/18, around 1:00am. The crime victim met the suspect on a social media site and invited the suspect to the victim's apartment. When the victim left the apartment to meet the suspect in the parking lot, the suspect gained entry into the apartment and stole items out of the residence before the victim returned from the parking lot."
(3) The noose is tightening: Bone-spurs Don attacks decorated Marine Corps hero and respected law-enforcement professional Bob Mueller; if only he showed the same outrage at Russia for meddling in our elections! "Disgraced and discredited Bob Mueller and his whole group of Angry Democrat Thugs spent over 30 hours with the White House Councel [sic], only with my approval, for purposes of transparency. Anybody needing that much time when they know there is no Russian Collusion is just someone looking for trouble. They are enjoying ruining people's lives and REFUSE to look at the real corruption on the Democrat side — the lies, the firings, the deleted Emails and soooo much more! Mueller's Angry Dems are looking to impact the election. They are a National Disgrace!"
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- California fires, including the largest in state's history (Mendocino complex), continue to burn.
- Trumpism's new addition to our lexicon: Move over "alternative facts"; make room for "truth isn't truth"!
- The paranoid clan: Eric Trump thinks that Reuters had ulterior motives in using an actual photo of his dad!
- Trump speech-writer who attended White Nationalist events has been fired.
- You can't buy class with any amount of money: Obamas, Clintons, and Trump on Aretha Franklin. [Meme]
- A documentary film about escaping the loop of poverty and the toxic masculinity in Rust-Belt America.
(5) California's Carr Fire was named for having started on Carr Powerhouse Road, not Car Fire, because it started by a disintegrating flat tire leading to sparks flying when the exposed rim hit the road.
(6) A heart-warming story amid conflicts: Daniel Barenboim, Israeli conductor and concert pianist, tries to bridge the Middle East divide with music. He brings together musicians from Israel, Palestine, Iran, and many other countries of the region, giving them a chance to get to know each other and to perform on the most prestigious stages worldwide. [15-minute segment in Sunday's "60 Minutes" program]

2018/08/18 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) Book review: Tarshis, Lauren, I Survived the American Revolution, 1776, unabridged audiobook, read by Holter Graham, Scholastic Audio, 2017. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Cover image for 'I Survived the American Revolution, 1776 This book was a pleasant surprise! I borrowed it, because it was one of the few audiobooks that was available at the time; I had finished listening to all of my borrowed audiobooks, and none of the titles I had placed holds on was available yet. It is a young-reader's title in an action-packed historical-fiction series ("I Survived," #15).
A young boy escapes home and his cruel uncle to go to New York City in search of his father, unaware that one of the largest battles of the Revolutionary War, and the first one after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, was raging there. This little-known, little-discussed, and badly-managed battle is referred to as the Brooklyn or Long Island Battle. Amid the bloody battlefield with many injured soldiers, the boy has to fight for his life.
At the end of the audiobook, the author shares how the book came about and how she did her research for it. The battle around NYC involved many British warships, along with quite a few filthy prison-ships used to hold captured American soldiers, as General George Washington's army fell apart. Much real history, such as the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Battle of Bunker Hill, and the idiosyncrasies of slavery, is weaved into the fictional narrative.
(2) Persian music: Shahrdad Rohani conducts and Homay sings "Man keh Mi-Miram," a poem by Shams-e Khalkhali, and his own composition "Sarzamin-e Bi-Karan" [7-minute video]. And here is the old-time favorite "Bahar-e Delneshin," with Isfahan's historical sites in the background [4-minute video].
(3) A game played on Facebook: Can you answer this? I am faced with the following problem. A murderer runs into a room and kills 4 of the 5 people there. I wonder how many people remain in that room afterwards. Comment with your answer and I'll inbox you if you're right or wrong. If wrong, you'll have to repost.
(4) Carillon concert at UCSB: All set on the lawn in front of UCSB's Storke Tower with my lawn chair, awaiting the start of a carillon concert by Margo Halsted as part of the Music Department's Summer Music Festival. My exposure to carillon as a musical instrument came from the 1953 film noire "Niagara," which, though rather cheesy in terms of its plot and execution, was nonetheless quite absorbing, particularly the way in which the two crime plotters, played by Marilyn Monroe (as an unhappily married woman) and Richard Allan (as her secret lover), communicated with each other via a song played on a carillon bell tower near the Falls, where requests could be submitted by the public. I find carillon music, and the way it is played, by banging on huge wooden keys connected to bell hammers, fascinating and attend them at UCSB whenever they are offered.

2018/08/17 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Poster for PBS 'Frontline' series 'Our Man in Tehran' (1) "Our Man in Tehran": In case you missed the two-part "Frontline" series, aired on August 13-14 on PBS So Cal (KOCE) and at various times on other PBS affiliate stations, below are links to the full episodes. NYT correspondent Thomas Erdbrink does a great job of humanizing Iranians for Westerners, who think they have "horns and tails."
Part 1 (115-minute video)   Part 2 (115-minute video)
(2) Quote of the day: "As democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and complete nacissistic moron." ~ H. L. Mencken, 1920 (nearly a century ago)
(3) Rest in peace: Ezzatollah Entezami, well-known and widely-honored Iranian theater, cinema, and television actor, has passed away at 94. He was sometimes referred to as "ezzat" ("honor") of Iran's film industry. He also had a decent singing voice.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Hundreds of US newspapers ran editorials on 8/16 that blasted Trump's "enemy of the people" rhetoric.
- US Senate unanimously adopts resolution declaring "the press is not the enemy of the people."
- Kellyanne Conway's husband trolls Trump on Twitter about his bashing of John Kasich. [Tweet image]
- Look who's talking about someone being intellectually limited: Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump!
- How die-hard "conservative" Republicans became ardent supporters of pot legalization.
- Finally, a "Make America Great Again" meme I can support! [Image]
- Cartoon of the day: Dictators of our own making. [Image]
- Human-rights lawyer Narges Mohammadi, serving a 16-year prison term in Iran, has been hospitalized.
(5) Flying a drone in Goleta, California: Prompted by concerns expressed by a neighbor, who saw a drone buzzing overhead as she relaxed on a sun-deck at home, an e-mail discussion ensued about whether flying drones is or should be allowed in our housing complex. The short answer is no, on at least two accounts. First, we are considered part of the UCSB campus, which has a no-drone policy. Second, we are within a 5-mile radius of an airport, which makes it illegal to fly drones out of concern for aviation safety.
I suggest those of you with similar concerns to familiarize yourselves with California (link) or other applicable state and municipal laws. Drones, which nowadays can be outfitted with high-definition cameras and AI tracking technology, pose serious privacy risks.
(6) UCSB Department of Music's Summer Music Festival: The local band Mariachi Las Olas de Santa Barbara performed at UCSB's Multicultural Center Theater, beginning at 5:30 this afternoon [Video 1] [Video 2]. Later in the evening, the Department's graduate students performed in a showcase concert at Karl Geiringer Hall. More events are scheduled for tomorrow, but I will attend only the carillon concert at 3:00 PM. [Photos]

2018/08/16 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image for Ken Follett's 'World Without End' (1) Book review: Follett, Ken, World Without End, unabridged audiobook, read by John Lee, Penguin Audio, 2007.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This best-selling 2007 historical novel is a sequel to Follett's 1989 book, The Pillars of the Earth. The story follows descendants of characters in the original book. Follett includes in the story two major historical events: The start of Hundred Years' War and the Black Death.
Follet's action-filled romp through the Middle Ages features much of the period's standard fare: Plots to overthrow kings, secret love affairs, revenge, and good-guy/bad-guy conflicts. The events unfold in the context of progress and progressive minds, as transformative ideas about medicine, commerce, architecture, and justice intersect.
As usual, Follett's historical research is meticulous, making the fictional tale feel like nonfiction. And he spares no details, leading to a very long book. For example, in one passage, Follet describes how a live man was skinned as punishment, with all the gruesome step-by-step process of cutting and pulling back!
World Without End has garnered 10,000+ reviews on GoodReads and 3500+ on Amazon, most reviewers giving it 5 stars. The novel has formed the basis of a 2012 TV miniseries, starring Cynthia Nixon, Miranda Richardson, and Peter Firth.
(2) Comparable number of deaths to Italy's highway bridge collapse, but much less news coverage: Twenty-two Sudanese children die on sinking boat while headed to school.
(3) You know our country is descending into the abyss of incivility when the White House defends Trump's use of the "dog" label for Omarosa as simply a routine insult!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Suicide bombing kills 50 in Afghanistan, mostly teens studying for university entrance exams.
- Aretha Franklin, "The Queen of Soul," dead of pancreatic cancer at 76. [NYT obituary, with video]
- Sweden's tallest peak shrunk in height by 13 ft during July's glacier-melting heat wave. [Time magazine]
- Catholic Church cover-up: Ousted pedophile priest was given reference letter for a job at Disney World!
- Ignorant Fox News anchor attacks Denmark by comparing it to Venezuela, and lives to regret it!
- Cartoon of the day: Paul Manafort's new outfit, in lieu of expensive suits. [Cartoon image]
- California Representative Maxine Waters gets under Trump's skin with her tweets. [Tweet image]
- Poignant T-shirt message about kneeling to Trump and like-minded people. [T-shirt image]
- Persian poetry: A beautiful couplet, entitled "Jodaaee" ("Separation") by Rahi Moayeri.
- Persian music: A dance piece composed by Mahin Zarinpanjeh and arranged/conducted by Houman Dehlavi.
(5) Reaction to revoking John Brennan's security clearance from retired US Navy Admiral William McRaven: "I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency."

2018/08/15 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The three ACM/IEEE curricula from 2001, 2008, and 2013 compared (1) Trends in computer science and engineering education: The three ACM/IEEE curricula from 2001, 2008, and 2013 are compared in the accompanying table (adapted from the May 2018 issue of Computing Edge), which shows the shift of emphasis in terms of the number of instructional hours among various "Knowledge areas." The total number of hours for a particular area in the 2013 curriculum is the sum of Tier-1 and Tier-2 entries. We see that three new Knowledge area designations appeared in 2013: Parallel and distributed computing (15 hours); Information assurance and security (9 hours); Systems fundamentals (27 hours). The number of hours for Architecture and organization is substantially reduced from 36 to 16, with some of the lost hours reclaimed under Parallel and distributed computing. The other major adjustment is the increase from 21 to 28 hours allocated to Programming languages. The next iteration of the joint curriculum will likely acknowledge data science as a separate knowledge area. Here are some possible program units.
All Tier 1 + All Tier 2 = 308
All Tier 1 + 90% of Tier 2 ~ 294 (comparable to CS2008 Core)
All Tier 1 + 80% of Tier 2 ~ 279 (comparable to CS2001 Core)
(2) Trump confidante and adviser Roger Stone briefly posted and later deleted this image about Space Force, which confused everyone. If it was meant as humor, then it seems all Trumpians are humor-challenged!
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- More reports of sexual abuse by Catholic priests are emerging. Will the Church be held accountable?
- Shame on the "American Riviera": Santa Barbara has the third-highest poverty rate among CA counties.
- The role played by Iranian-Armenians in protecting and advancing Persian music. [6-minute video]
- More adult Americans are sharing their homes with people other than spouses or family members.
- Spike Lee is back with "BlacKkKlansman," a film that will change our attitudes about race and racism.
- Installation of open-air public urinals in Paris to solve the street urination problem causes an uproar.
(4) Republicans are going about their business as if all is normal in the White House, while the President is engaged in shouting insults at anyone who displays the slightest disagreement with him. Vote them out!
(5) A taxonomy of on-line trolling: In an interesting article in the August 2018 issue of IEEE Computer magazine, Hal Berghel and Daniel Berleant list and discuss the following varieties of trolling: Provocation; Social-engineering; Partisan; Firehose; Ad hominem; Jam; Sport; Snag; Nuisance; Diversion; False-flag; Huckster; Amplification/relay; Rehearsal; Proxy; Faux-facts; Insult; Public relations; Chaff; Wheat; Satire. A very interesting and eye-opening read.
(6) "User Data Privacy: Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, and Privacy Protection": This is the title of an article by Jim Isaak and Mina J. Hanna in the August 2018 issue of IEEE Computer magazine. The authors identify the following core principles of privacy and data protection: Public transparency; Disclosure for users; Control; Notification. [I could not find a public link to the full article. I will update this post when I find a link.]

2018/08/14 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page receive IEEE Computer Society's 2018 Computer Pioneer Award Dr. John Goodenough, now 96, helped invent the batteries that power our smartphones and tablets. Faces of courage, as wildfires rage in California and elsewhere (1) Some faces in the news: [Left] Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page receive IEEE Computer Society's 2018 Computer Pioneer Award "For the creation of the Google search engine and leadership in creating ambitious products and research initiatives." [Center] Dr. John Goodenough helped invent the batteries that power our smartphones and tablets. Now, at 96, this World War II veteran and "Energizer-bunny" technologist keeps going and going on bringing about the next-generation of device batteries that provide more power and charge faster. [Right] Faces of courage, as wildfires rage in California and elsewhere.
(2) If it took Omarosa nearly a year at a high-level White House insider position to "gradually awaken" to Trump's "bigoted outlook," then perhaps Trump is right in considering her not very bright!
(3) Our Man in Tehran: This is the title of a 2-part "Frontline" program, the first of which aired last night and the second will air tonight, 9:00-11:00, on PBS SoCal (KOCE). New York Times correspondent Thomas Erdbrink journeys into a private Iran that is at odds with its conservative clerics and other leaders.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump signs defense bill named for John McCain, without mentioning his name.
- Heavy rains cause flash-flood emergencies in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
- Highway bridge collapse over Italian city leaves at least 22 dead.
- Jeremy Corbyn, Britain's possible next PM, faces broad allegations of anti-Semitism from Jewish leaders.
- Old news: Cambridge Analytica whistleblower claims that the Brexit vote was influenced by data mining.
- Cartoon of the day: Iran is bullied into accepting a significantly reduced share of the Caspian Sea. [Image]
- Ten-day forecast in paradise: Santa Barbara's weather in the coming days!
- The Borowitz report: [on Omarosa] Trump says White House is no place for lying lowlife from reality show.
(5) How are soccer players tracked to determine the distance they cover in a game? This question arose in a recent discussion with a friend. Whereas we have the technology for detailed tracking by using microchips in a player's boot or clothing, the same way soccer balls are tracked, we suspected that this isn't the way it is done in official games. Here is what my on-line research revealed.
Coaches do use microchips to track their players during training "with systems like RedFIR, a German technology comprised of tiny (15 gram) radio transmitters that can be placed in uniforms, footwear or balls, and a network of receivers set up around the field. The system detects events like passes, crosses and goals, plus provides real-time info on player step count, speed, and distance covered. Fraunhofer IIS, the company that makes RedFIR, says that its radio-based system provides a major benefit over other tracking solutions: its tracking capability is not diminished by obstacles obscuring the line of sight."
FIFA is wary of adopting the aforementioned technology, in part because rule changes would be required and partly because players have not been very receptive of the idea. "FIFA relies on a visual tracking technology called 'Matrics' made by the Italian company Deltatre to provide data that make up the heat maps, passes completed and distance covered stats made available at the World Cup official site."
This YouTube video contains a visual demo of tracking soccer players from a 2015-2016 study.

2018/08/13 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Colorful flowers, version 1 Colorful flowers, version 2 Colorful flowers, version 3 (1) Colorful flowers of different kinds, for your viewing pleasure.
(2) Trump says he had been warned about not-so-smart Omarosa being trouble, but he still hired her and kept her at the WH because she said great things about him!
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Bloomberg reports that smoke from California wildfires has caused a dip in solar-power production.
- Showdown at Justice Department: Donald Trump calls AG Jeff Sessions "scared stiff and missing in action."
- Self-repairing fabric fills up intentionally-created hole.
- Our amazing nature: Eagle outsmarts fox in epic battle over a caught rabbit.
- Recipe for feeling better in the morning: Feel free to substitute another name for "Ted Cruz."
- Quote of the day: "The world is but a canvas to our imagination." ~ Henry David Thoreau
Colorful flowers, version 4 (4) Mini-reunion in Sothern California: After the large July reunion of the class of 1968, Tehran University's College of Engineering, in Yerevan, Armenia, we had a small-scale get-together of college buddies who reside or happened to be in SoCal, on Sunday 8/12, starting with tea and various treats at Faramarz's place and ending with dinner at a Brazilian restaurant in West LA. Seated left to right at the table are: Farid Dadgar, Faramarz Davarian, Javad Peyrovian, Mohammad Modarres, Behrooz Parhami.
(5) "King Tut: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh" exhibit at California Science Center: In an enjoyable Sunday afternoon outing, we visited a museum and attended a related IMAX film screening. The Boy-King's burial place was a secret, so as to foil grave robbers and ill-wishers who could destroy it. It wasn't until 1922 that the site was unearthed by chance, in what has been described as the greatest archaeological discovery of all time. Artifacts were meticulously catalogued and removed from the site, to be housed at a Cairo museum. The California Science Center exhibit is the world premier of this very special touring exhibit to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the tomb's discovery. The IMAX film about Egypt is narrated by Omar Sharif and provides context and background info to complement the "King Tut" exhibit. Here are some random shots in and around California Science Center, including a couple of views of Los Angeles Rams' brand new stadium.

Cover image for Atul Gawande's 'Being Mortal' 2018/08/11 (Saturday): Book review: Gawande, Atul, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, unabridged MP3 audiobook read by Robert Petkoff, Macmillan Audio, 2014.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Gawande maintains that dying is a very natural human condition and must be dealt with as such. Currently, very few people die at home, in a familiar setting, the exceptions consisting mostly of those who suffer major trauma and die before being taken to a hospital. Most people die, not surrounded by loved ones but by strangers, be they medical staff at a hospital or care staff at a nursing home. In many other cultures, old people remain at home and are cared for by the family. In the Indian culture, for example, older individuals are respected and their advice sought on almost everything the family does.
Dying of old age is a relatively recent phenomenon in human history. Ancient Romans had a life expectancy of 28 years, about one-third of what it is in today's advanced societies. Dying of old age is actually a misnomer, as we do not really die of old age but of various illnesses that afflict us at old age, when our body is not as capable of fighting them.
Gawande uses his own father's battle with cancer as a case study to illustrate the points he wants to make. His surgeon father developed a cancerous tumor in his upper spinal cord. Surgery, while an option, was unlikely to lead to higher quality of life and also carried direct and indirect risks. The surgeon, in consultation with physicians and family members, decided to take his time and continue without treatment for as long as he could do things that were his life's passions. The author recommends that doctors talk to and get to know their patient's preferences and priorities, prescribing medical treatments accordingly. The most aggressive treatment, the current norm, isn't necessarily the best course of action.
One of Gawande's observations is that at old age, a typical person has so many ailments that doctors should not feel the urge to treat/cure every single one of them. When a young person becomes ill, aggressive treatment to confront the illness makes sense, but for older patients, the priority should be a treatment regimen that maximizes their comfort and ability to carry out the activities they care about most.
In short, Gawande argues for a focus on well-being as opposed to health and survival. In planning treatments, physicians should rely on a frank talk with the patient. He does admit that, "For many, such talk, however carefully framed, raises the specter of a society readying itself to sacrifice its sick and aged. But what if the sick and aged are already being sacrificed&mdashvictims of our refusal to accept the inexorability of our life cycle?"
In addition to medical interventions, models of senior living must be adjusted accordingly. For example, it is unclear how much assistance elders receive in settings known as "assisted living." Gawnade finds that in many cases, staff do things for residents, instead of assisting them with doing the tasks themselves, thus compromising their independence. It simply takes less time to dress a senior, instead of helping him/her with the task.
Gawande ends his book with a brief discussion of euthanasia, criticizing the policy of making it too easy. Avoiding loss of independence, and the attendant low life quality, versus prolonging life, which may entail suffering, is a grave decision that must be made with utmost care.

2018/08/10 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Traditional Iranian breakfast spread. (1) Traditional Iranian breakfast spread.
(2) Patriarchy in the 21st Century: A Facebook friend's status indicated that he has stopped sending stuff to a woman friend (one he grew up with), because she informed him that her son did not like men contacting her!
(3) The monsters among us: Two of the major fires raging in California have been determined to have been set by arsonists, an especially heinous category of criminals.
(4) Humor: President Trump has been so successful that by his 20th month in office, we had enjoyed 94 consecutive months of jobs growth!
(5) Persian music: A large number of young and old Iranians, from all walks of life, participate in the video for this patriotic song performed by Mohammad-Reza Shajarian, with lyrics by Hooshang Ebtehaj.
(6) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Paul Manafort's trial has exposed him and a host of other Trump campaign officials, as utterly corrupt.
- Trump's tariffs lead to the shutting down of the last major TV factory in the US.
- This year, Trump's nose has grown at twice the rate of last year: Here are examples from recent rallies.
- PM Medvedev says US sanctions against Russian banks amounts to declaration of economic war.
- Smoke from California wildfires has reached New York City!
- Cartoon of the day: Khamenei's shield against attacks. [Image]
- CSUN Professor Nayereh Tohidi profiled in Cal State's system-wide publication. A very well-deserved honor!
- The DeVos Family apparently does not believe in "America First," given that its yacht flies a foreign flag.
- PETA wants the Trump boys expelled by NRA, offering the cash-strapped entity $100,000 as incentive.
- Inserting bogus, non-exploitable bugs into software can make it more secure by distracting attackers.
- Ford outfits factory workers with exoskeletons to provide assist for lifting arms when doing overhead tasks.
- Ford develops adaptive cruise control that helps improve traffic flow.
- Persian-Azeri music: A wonderful song, with Persian and Azeri lyrics, written and performed by Homay.
- The beautiful and diverse shoreline of the Mediterranean Sea captured in aerial photos.
- Wading bird on a beach in Isla Vista, roughly midway between the UCSB campus and Coal Oil Point. [Video]
(7) Google is celebrating a trailblazer's birthday (born on August 9) with a doodle: Mary G. Ross was selected by Lockheed Martin during World War II as the only woman and the only Native American on a team of 40 engineers to work on a top-secret project that later evolved into Lockheed Missiles & Space Co.
(8) Reinventing the wing: With a large number of electrically-driven propellers, adequate lift can be provided by a much smaller wing. [Source: IEEE Spectrum, August 2018] [Photo]

2018/08/08 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) Persian poetry: This poem, shown in its most-popular form, is unattributed and appears in several different forms on social media. And here is a wonderful verse from Divan-e Shams, by Mowlavi (Rumi). The complete poem can be found on Finally, here is a beautiful ghazal by Sa'adi.
(2) An early-morning walk on my final day in Windsor, Canada: Having explored the city westward and eastward from my river-side hotel over the past two days, and not wanting to walk into Detroit River on the north, I headed south along Ouellette Ave., taking detours on both sides in search of interesting sights. Some residents jokingly refer to Windsor as "South Detroit," implying that it's but one of the neighborhoods of the big American city. Compared with the previous days, there wasn't much to see (Photos). I found most downtown buildings featureless, with rows of smallish houses on residential side streets much richer in terms of variety. Almost all such houses have 4-8 steps from the street into their covered front porches (indicating that they likely have basements) and second stories, with small attic windows on top. [Video]
(3) The third and final keynote talk at MWSCAS: Continuing with the automotive theme, given the key role of the auto industry in Ontario's economy and Windsor's proximity to Detroit, Sebastian Fischmeister (U. Waterloo) spoke under the title "Challenges in System Safety and Security of Future Automative Platforms."
Following circuit-level keynote talks of the past two days, today's talk focused on system-level issues. Safety (an aspect of reliability) has long been the dominating topic for cyber-physical systems. The advent of ubiquitous connectivity has made security an equally important topic.
The move toward self-driving cars is inevitable. Some 80% of accidents are attributed to driver distraction and a 42% reduction in collisions is conservatively estimated from automation. Automotive software is so complex that some 175 new vulnerabilities are discovered per week. Not all of these apply to every car, but the exposure is significant nonetheless. The need for merging studies of safety and security is thus evident. [Photos]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- California's Mendocino Fire has become the largest in state history, as fire crew brace for more.
- Three cheers to Canada: Saudis expel ambassador and suspend trade deals over human rights criticism.
- Slamming the reinstated US sanctions against Iran, Russia vows to save the nuclear deal.
- Pilot and all 4 Iranian-American passengers killed in a small-plane crash in Santa Ana, California.
- Iran's economic woes deepen as reinstated US sanctions take hold.
- Graham Nash honors 1968 and 2018 protests with a new video for "Teach Your Children."
(5) Dan Rather's "60 Minutes" interview with Donald Trump from 1999 shows that his campaign strategy of bashing John McCain was shaped years ago.
(6) The new generation of candidates includes many who are saddled with student debt and plan to take on this problem which hinders the American Dream.
(7) Returning home to Goleta: I snapped this photo of Detroit's Renaissance Center through the windshield at the end of Windsor-Detroit Tunnel, while awaiting entry into the US. Here are some super-high clouds at 34,000 feet (10,400 m) over the Rocky Mountains, on my DTW-LAX flight route. I snapped these photos just before landing at LAX. The third photo shows the 405 Freeway.

2018/08/07 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Panoramic view of downtown Detroit and part of Windsor from Windsor's Riverside trail in the vicinity of Caesars Windsor Hotel (1) Panoramic view of downtown Detroit and part of Windsor from Windsor's Riverside trail in the vicinity of Caesars Windsor Hotel: Here is a link to the dynamic version of this panorama.
(2) My early morning walk: I walked west on Riverside drive, in the opposite direction of yesterday's stroll. The walk took me through the downtown area to Windsor-Detroit Ambassador Bridge and beyond, and it included a detour next to the bridge, where University of Windsor's campus is located (Photos). I returned via Windsor's Riverside Trail, right by the water, which included a mile-long sculpture garden. (Photos). [Video]
(3) Are the purported health benefits of turmeric, aka Indian saffron, too good to be true? Short answer: Not really! "If you have an ailment, there's a good chance that someone, somewhere, is studying whether turmeric can treat it. There are more than 15,000 manuscripts published about curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, and about 50 manuscripts added to this collection each week."
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Magnitude-6.9 Indonesian earthquake kills at least 100 at a resort island.
- Degeneration of the Republican Party under Donald Trump's leadership. [Photo]
- Sixteen major wildfires in California are being fought by more than 14,000 firefighters.
- Donald Trump's Walk-of-Fame star to be removed, per West Hollywood Council's resolution.
- Anderson Cooper reviews the web of lies we have been told about the Trump-Tower meeting with Russians.
- Kalam-polo (cabbage-rice) recipe, shared by a different Parhami Family from Shiraz, Iran!
(5) This morning's keynote lecture at MWSCAS: Dr. Eby G. Friedman (U. Rochester) spoke under the title "Power Delivery in Heterogenous Nanoscale Integrated Systems."
As the complexity of VLSI chips has reached many billions of transistors and the energy consumption per chip has grown to achieve greater functionality and speed, delivering power to chips and distributing it around have become major challenges. Power conversion and regulation resources should be designed so as to deliver high-quality power with minimum loss of energy to multiple power domains on a chip.
To achieve these goals, we need tiny voltage converters close to the loads, accurate models to characterize all the components involved, efficient algorithms for predicting the quality of power delivered, and a co-design methodology for optimally placing power supplies and decoupling capacitors. Existing tools and methodologies must be extended for dealing with emerging 3D integrated circuits. [Photos]
(6) Tonight, we had the MWSCAS's formal banquet, featuring an exquisite meal and live music by a band with a global repertoire [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3]. Tomorrow, there will be an awards luncheon, which I may have to miss to make it to my return flight out of Detroit.
(7) Final thought for the day: "I just want someone to love and accept me for who I pretend to be on the Internet." ~ Anonymous

2018/08/06 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Map of Europe, with recent high temperatures (1) Europe's record heat wave: Temperatures in Celsius or degrees Centigrade. [45*C = 113*F]
(2) Venezuelan President survives assassination attempt by explosives-carrying drones: This may be the first political assassination attempt using drones. I hope the US was not involved, given that Trump had apparently considered a military invasion there.
(3) Trump is about to fall, which is satisfying: Equally satisfying is the fact that numerous criminals, parasites, and apologists in his White House will fall with him!
(4) TEDx talks by Iranian women: Getting involved in discussion on a Facebook post reminded me of this Persian talk by Lili Golestan, who achieved what she wanted through positivism and hard work. A highly effective and informative English talk by Azadeh Moaveni, entitled "Iran from a Different Perspective."
(5) Traveling from Burlington to Windsor in Canada, with a stop-over in Waterloo, on Sunday 8/05: The Midwest Symposium on Circuits and Systems began at Caesars Windsor Hotel (on the shore of Detroit River, facing downtown Detroit on the other side) with a welcoming reception last evening.
En route to Windsor, I spent 3 hours with my former colleague and long-time friend, Emeritus Professor Farhad Mavaddat. We had coffee and lunch and drove through the University of Waterloo Campus, which has changed a lot since I spent a sabbatical year there 32 years ago. We also went to visit the apartment building where my family used to live when my two sons were a toddler and an infant. Of course, they don't remember a thing about their stay here and the snowsuits they used to wear in winter! These photos show the apartment building at the intersection of Westmount Road and Brybeck Crescent. [Video]
(6) My early morning stroll in Windsor on Monday 8/06: After photographing the Caesar Windsor Hotel from inside and outside (Photos), I began walking eastward on Riverside Dr., turning right on Gladstone Ave. toward the Olde Walkerville Neighborhood. I returned along Wyandotte St., completing the 4-mile loop on McDougall Ave. There wasn't much auto or pedestrian traffic, given that today is a holiday in Canada. These photos show a mosque and a church, the historic Walkerville Theater, an Islamic school across the street from a gentlemen's club, and various businesses (some boarded up). [Video]
(7) Opening session of MWSCAS and its first Keynote address, delivered by Yervant Zorian, Synopsis Fellow and Chief Architect, under the title "Automotive Electronics Today: Quality, Safety, & Security."
The value in automotive products is shifting from mechanical parts to electronics and software. A typical modern car now incorporates some 100 million lines of code (slated to triple by 2025) and it generates 4 TB of data per day from its ~6 cameras and many sensors. Automotive electronics presents numerous challenges by its need for higher-quality IP components and by the requirements of testing, both initially and in operation. Self-driving cars, moving from the current hands-off mode to eyes-off and, eventually, driver-off, provide one the most important forces driving AI research, whose methods are about to surpass the capabilities of human drivers. Finally, reliable and secure operation of hardware and software components have to be ensured through new research and development initiatives.
(8) Honoring Graham Jullien and William Miller (at the podium in this photo, with Jullien right behind him): The photo was taken at today's luncheon. This afternoon, I presented an invited lecture at a special conference session convened in their honor. [See item 298 in my List of Publications]
[Here are a few sights from MWSCAS, including photos of a sample lecture, a sample poster, and a small dinner for the conference steering committee members and their guests.]

2018/08/05 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The old Radio Kermanshah building. (Photo by: Abdi Hoghoghi) US-Canada border at Niagara Falls US-Canada border between Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario (1) Some interesting images: [Left] The old Radio Kermanshah building in the Kurdistan Province, Iran. (Photo by: Abdi Hoghoghi) [Center & Right] Our weirdly-shaped northern border: These Google Maps satellite images show that you have to move northward across Niagara Falls to get from Canada to its southern neighbor! Ditto for going from Windsor, Ontario, to Detroit, Michigan, across Detroit River.
(2) A representative from Iran's Mazandaran Province presents a comprehensive list of hardships and grievances that have led to street protests. [Speech in Persian]
(3) An advance in computing: Texas teenager finds an exponentially faster conventional algorithm for recommender systems that runs in polylogarithmic time, rather than exponential time, thus erasing the advantage of quantum computing for this particular problem. Polylogarithmic time means that the running time is a polynomial in the logarithm of the problem size n.
(4) Everybody's dumb: "Lebron (sic) James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn't easy to do. I like Mike!" ~ Donald Trump tweet
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Michael Jordan and a host of other athletes defend LaBron James, after Trump insulted his intelligence.
- This got to hurt DJT: Melania Trump has praised LaBron James and his work on behalf of at-risk children.
- Talk about luxury aircraft: The Airlander 10 outdoes them all!
- Finger lime: This squeezable citrus fruit looks wonderful!
- Living art (artist and location unknown). [Video]
- Instrumental music: Little violinist plays "Despacito," with skill and passion. [Video]
(6) A fable: A wheat thief was arrested and paraded through town on a donkey, while people laughed and cheered. The accompanying officer asked the thief how he was doing. "Great," he replied, "I ate the wheat, I am getting a free ride, and I have made the people happy!" [This is the story of Iran's Islamic regime: Its officials have plundered the people's money, they are riding imported luxury cars, and people are busy making jokes about them and laughing out loud!] [The original Facebook post, in Persian]
(7) Today in Burlington, Ontario, Canada: I began the day at Burlington's Village Square Market, featuring arts, crafts, and health products, along with music and dance performances. The highly-rated Rayhoon Persian Eatery can be seen in the background of this video. I then explored the downtown area and strolled along the fabulous Waterfront Trail, going through and way beyond Spencer Smith Park, providing me with about 6 miles of walking [Photos]. When I returned to Village Square just before noon to eat lunch at Rayhoon, an excellent trio, with a wonderful female vocalist, was performing pop and rock classics [Video 1] [Video 2]. As I sat at a table in Rayhoon's patio, a pair of belly dancers entertained the now sizable crowd at the market [Video].
In the scorching mid-afternoon, I took refuge in Mapleview Mall to cool off, read, have coffee, and post videos/photos. Businesses throughout the town had placed water bowls on the sidewalks for our 4-legged friends, and water fountains also had special accommodations for them. Several of the high-rises in Burlington house retirement communities; a waterfront development advertises luxury condos. [Useful info, seen on a waterfront park sign: "One Canada goose can poop up to 60 times per day." You have been warned!]

2018/08/04 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Panoramic view of the Niagara Falls (1) My adventurs in Canada so far: I arrived in Canada, via Detroit, early morning on Thursday 8/02. I spent Thursday afternoon with my former colleague and long-time friend, Emeritus Professor Farhad Mavaddat. Before that, we had lunch in Waterloo's Proof Restaurant with our common friend Professor Ladan Tahvildari, who has just been promoted to full professor at Waterloo and treated us in way of celebration!
I began Friday 8/03 with a 3-mile stroll through Niagara on the Lake. This historical small town is a bit like Carmel, California, featuring boutiques, galleries, novelty/gift shops, and restaurants. Most of all, it's filled with flowers! On this very hot day, city workers were roaming the streets, with their water trucks and hoses, tending to the plants. [Photos]
From Niagara on the Lake, I took the Niagara Parkway southward to Niagara Falls. The scenic road, winding alongside Niagara River, that flows northward from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario and forms the Falls along the way, is lined with wineries and orchards, featuring fresh-fruit stands. [Photos]
At the Falls, the mist from raging water had a welcome cooling effect on a hot and humid day, as I walked for 3-4 miles between the various parts of the town and several viewing areas. It was more than three decades ago when I had last visited the Falls, and much has changed in the interim. [Photos] [Dynamic panorama]
Despite much fun and adventure, I did miss Santa Barbara's Fiesta 2018, August 1-5, while traveling.
(2) It boggles my mind how Trump gets people living paycheck-to-paycheck cheer him on when he announces a new tax-cut plan for the super-rich!
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Wife of decorated US marine is deported to Mexico: Zero tolerance or zero compassion?
- This year, Trump's nose has grown at twice the rate of last year: Here are examples from recent rallies.
- Facing competition from EVs, gasoline engines are being improved significantly, and Mazda leads the way.
- Paper just published in PNAS details genetically-modified rice that neutralizes HIV.
- Canadian sunflower farm is closed to visitors, after selfie-takers damaged the crop and caused traffic jams.
- Cartoon of the day: "Wait until one of them says, 'It's so peaceful out here.'" [Image]
(4) On 8-dimensional numbers: A day after I visited two University of Waterloo colleagues, I encountered this Wired story about how Cohl Furey, a UoW grad student in 2014, suggested a mathematical theory to connect some forces of nature together!
Real numbers are cornerstones of physics. Complex numbers (2D numbers or pairs of reals) provide the math of quantum mechanics. Suitably paired complex numbers form 4D numbers or quaternions, which underlie Einstein's special theory of relativity. Pairs of quaternions make octonions, and that's the end of the line for kinds of numbers that can be added, subtracted, multiplied, and divided, the so-called "division algebras."
Since 2014, Furey has made notable progress in developing her theory, advancing a promising 1973 suggestion about the link between octonions and strong & electromagnetic forces that had been abandoned. One challenge in working with octonions is that their math isn't associative. We lose the ordering property when we go from reals to complex numbers and commutativity in the next transition to quaternions, but associativity remains for the latter numbers.

2018/08/02 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Logical reasoning puzzle involving fewer than 30 people standing in a circle (1) A math puzzle from WSJ: A group of fewer than 30 people are standing in a circle, each one holding a piece of cardboard with a number written on it. They are instructed to note the numbers held by the persons standing immediately to the right and left and to announce the averages. The announced averages turn out to be 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on, going in order around the circle. How many people were in the circle if one person's number was 10 times her announced average?
(2) And another WSJ puzzle: Using the numeral 2 twice, 6 once, and any number of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, decimal-point, and parentheses symbols, form a math expression that equals 29.
(3) The "negative afterimage" effect: Stare at the dot on the woman's nose in this negative image for 15 seconds, then divert your gaze to the blank part of the image to see the effect. If you blink your eyes quickly after diverting your gaze, the afterimage will last longer.
(4) The magic of satellite imagery: I am a big fan of satellite and aerial photos, because they provide perspectives on geography not available from other forms of imagery. These satellite images show the Caucasus (Ghafghaz) mountain range, stretching from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea, and the Alborz Mountain range in Iran's Guilan province. In the latter image, you can see Sefid Rood extending from the Sefid Rood Dam reservoir to the Caspian Sea, and the city of Rasht just below the river, near the center of the lush greenery that is characteristic of the Caspian coast.
(5) Women's-rights activist Masih Alinejad is disowned by her sister on Iran's state TV. Stalin would have been proud of the Islamic Republic! One commentator wrote that Alinejad may have been disowned by a sister, but she has gained many other sisters because of her courageous campaign against mandatory hijab laws.
(6) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- In somewhat of a surprise, Trump taps an extreme-weather researcher to head the WH science office.
- DJT: AG "should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further."
- Humor: Russia, if you are listening, I really really like to get re-elected in 2020! Please?
- Brains of 20 different animals. [Image]
- Persian poetry: A couple of verses from a beautiful Anvari poem. Link to all of Anvari's ghazals.
(7) Caucher Birkar, an Iranian Kurdish refugee working at UK's University of Cambridge, is one of the four recipients of this year's Fields Medal, the most prestigious prize in mathematics (sometimes characterized as math's Nobel Prize). The other three recipients are Alessio Figalli, Peter Scholze, and Akshay Venkatesh.

2018/08/01 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Summer flowers 6 Summer flowers 2 Summer flowers 3 Summer flowers 5 Summer flowers 1 Summer flowers 4 (1) Despite super-hot weather and very dry conditions in Goleta over the past few weeks, these flowers, photographed on Monday, July 30, 2018, as I walked home from UCSB, seem to be in rather good shape!
(2) Nature photography: These photos capture rare clear views of Santa Barbara Channel Islands from UCSB West Campus and Coal Oil Point beaches. And here is a view of the Pacific Ocean, looking southeast from the bluffs at UCSB West Campus beach.
(3) Virgin Galactic has chosen Grottaglie, Italy, to host its space-tourism launches, because of a long runway, uneventful weather, and record as a test-bed for remotely-piloted aircraft.
(4) Evolution of Trump's defense strategy in the Russia probe:
- There's no proof Russia interfered in our election.
- Okay, it did, but no one on Trump's team knew about it.
- Okay, it was just the coffee boys, but Trump himself was not involved.
- Okay, Trump colluded with Russia, but collusion isn't a crime.
- Okay, it's a crime, but an itsy-bitsy crime.
- Since when is crime something to be investigated?
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Heroes: Forty hospital employees, who lost their own homes in the Carr Fire, are helping others cope.
- Surprise, surprise! North Korea is working on new missiles, according to US intelligence agencies.
- Russia liquidates almost all (84%) of its holdings in US Treasury securities.
- Summits are fun: Donald Trump is desperately looking for other dictators with whom to have summits.
- Pedestrian bridge in Vietnam is seemingly held up in the sky by a giant hand.
- NASA's Parker Solar Probe will reveal how the sun sends out plumes of energetic particles.
- Facebook shuts down 30+ fake pages for coordinated attempt to sway public opinion before the midterms.
- Amazon is in the fight of its life against dirty tricks, such as fake reviews and algorithm cheats. [WSJ Image]

2018/07/31 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cultural contrast: Iranian coffee-table cover, along with Chinese rug Different version of a classic optical illusion: Is the cat going up or down the stairs? Teasing master painters (1) Interesting images: [Left] Cultural contrast: Iranian coffee-table cover and Chinese rug. [Center] Different version of a classic optical illusion: Is the cat going up or down the stairs? [Right] Teasing master painters!
(2) US politics: Independent "never-Hillary" voters, of whom 33% voted for Trump (23% voted for third-party candidates and 37% didn't vote), are split evenly 51/49 in disapproving/approving of the job Trump is doing.
(3) On US-Israel relations: "Obama's administration was not the first to have abstained or supported UN resolutions critical of Israel ... George W. Bush's allowed 6 such resolutions to pass, George H. W. Bush's allowed 9, and Ronald Reagan's allowed 21." ~ James L. Gelvin, The New Middle East, a book I will review soon
(4) My college buddies in Iran (Fanni class of 1968) are starting an "assistance fund" and, as a first act of kindness, have made charity donations in lieu of sending flowers to the memorial gathering for our departed classmate Nasser Mohajerani. Thanks for organizing and acting quickly and compassionately in this matter!
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Six dead, 7 missing, in the rapidly-spreading Shasta-County fire in Northern California.
- Hundreds of hikers, including many tourists, trapped on volcano following Indonesia's devastating quake.
- Ruth Bader Ginsburg plans to serve on the US Supreme Court for at least another 5 years.
- "Die Hard," the mother of all modern action films, turns 30.
- Smirnoff's humorous ad: Made in America, but we'd be happy to talk about our ties to Russia under oath.
- New on the menu: Sushi, Iranian style! [Photo]
- Incredible photos: Winners and honorable-mentions in the drone photography awards.
- Persian music: "Shadi" ("Joy"), featuring Arash Fouladvand and Niaz Nawab, based on a poem by Rumi.
(6) Biggest winners from Trump tax cuts are CEOs: They have received major pay hikes, while the worth of their owned/optioned stocks has risen sharply due to companies using tax-cut windfalls for stock buy-backs.
(7) After Trump saying "there was no collusion" hundreds of times, his legal team is now moving the goal-post by asserting that "collusion isn't a crime"!
(8) Another tax cut: The Trump administration is considering a unilateral (bypassing the Congress) tax cut for the wealthy. If implemented, capital gains will be taxed based on inflation-adjusted values. "Currently, capital gains taxes are determined by subtracting the original price of an asset from the price at which it was sold and taxing the difference, usually at 20 percent. If a high earner spent $100,000 on stock in 1980, then sold it for $1 million today, she would owe taxes on $900,000. But if her original purchase price was adjusted for inflation, it would be about $300,000, reducing her taxable 'gain' to $700,000. That would save the investor $40,000."

2018/07/29 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image for Richard Dawkins' 'Science in the Soul' (1) Book review: Dawkins, Richard, Science in the Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by the author, Lalla Ward, and Gillian Somerscales, Random House Audio, 2017.
[My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This book brings together 42 essays and other writings of ethologist and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, spanning three decades, all sharing the author's characteristic clarity, wit, and focus on the primacy of nature. Dawkins calls for using reason and empirical data over gut feeling (which may be influenced by superstition and blind prejudices) in all of our sociopolitical decisions. Science in the Soul really pertains to the role of science in ethical decision-making.
Dawkins views it as inexcusable that in the age of electronic communication, which puts scientific findings at everyone's fingertips, so many people in high places still question the facts of evolution and climate change. Why has the world grown so hostile to facts? Wrapped up in our prejudices, many of us cannot step back and take a broad look at the entire collection of prejudices that exist in the world. About the myriad of incompatible gods and religious faiths, Dawkins has said: "We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further."
I enjoyed listening to this audiobook, which provides much food for thought. Several chapters are supplied with afterwords containing updates or thoughts on how he could have written them better. These afterwords make the collection more useful, even for those who are already familiar with Dawkins' ideas. The book has my highest recommendation.
(2) A drug company has bought a $300 million stake in the genetic testing company 23andMe, giving it access to a trove of genetic data to develop new drugs and raising serious consumer privacy concerns.
(3) RIP: Sad to report that a few days after our 50th-anniversary reunion in Yerevan, Armenia, our classmate Nasser Mohajerani, one of Daneshkadeh-ye Fanni's 1968 graduates who could not attend the reunion due to illness, has passed away. He was an extraordinary engineer who played a key role in the advancement of heavy industries in the Azerbaijan province. [Announcements]
A verse by Sa'adi (4) Persian poetry: A verse by Sa'adi, quoted by Homa Sarshar in her TED-like talk "Insiders and Outsiders" about prejudice and violation of minority rights. [The full poem on]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- "Trump 2020" banners are made in China (and Trump golf courses are maintained by foreign workers).
- Trump rants about Michael Cohen, 'Fake News,' and border security in Sunday morning tweetstorm.
- Before-and-after photos show the scope of disaster in northern California.
- Earthquake near Kermanshah, Iran, reported, with magnitude 4.3 (5.0 per some reports). [Map]
- This misogynist and apologist for violence against women is a university professor in Iran! [Lecture video]
- Quote of the day: "Silence is of the gods; only monkeys chatter." ~ American comedian Buster Keaton

2018/07/27 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Flyers for the two December 2017 lectures (1) Podcasts of my lectures entitled "Computers and Challenges of Writing in Persian," delivered on November 19 and 20, 2017, as part of UCLA's Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran, are now available. I have also included below a link to the slides (applicable to both versions) for those who want to pursue the lectures. A project of mine this summer is putting together written versions of these lectures for broader dissemination. Look for the resulting papers on my publications page later this year.
Lecture in Persian (73-minute audio file)
Lecture in English (81-minute audio file):
Lecture slides: PDF (no animation); PowerPoint
(2) Robot designers learn from rats for navigation: Being able to navigate without or with limited visual cues is a major advantage, as it allows navigation is darkness. Rats do it via a mechanism that keeps track of their own movements [Image]. "Robots have the advantage of being able to sense their own motion far more accurately than an animal, and to take advantage of a wide range of accurate motion sensors, whereas a rat may make less-reliable estimates of how far and in which direction its legs have moved it." [Reference: Edwards, Chris, "Animals Teach Robots to Find Their Way," CACM, Vol. 61, No. 8, pp. 14-16, August 2018.]
(3) One-liners: Brief Trump news, Trumpisms, and related memes/humor.
- Why it is necessary to fact-check Donald Trump: Comprehensive interview with Daniel Dale.
- "He told me I should sue the E.U.—not go into negotiations." ~ Theresa May, on Donald Trump
- Quote of the day: Barack Obama, in his July 17 Nelson Mandela Lecture. [Image from Time magazine]
- Putin not only got Trump elected but is helping him undermine Mueller. [Time magazine]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- A debate regarding Iran's and Israel's nuclear programs and the recently-annulled nuclear deal.
- After the closure of two Blockbuster stores in Alaska, only one location, in Bend, Oregon, is left in the US.
- On the day when Twitter purged fake accounts, Katy Perry lost nearly 3 million followers!
- Currently making $231,000 per minute, Jeff Bezos became world's richest person on July 16, 2018.
- Smoke and poor air quality are back in Goleta, from a small Fairview-area fire that was put out quickly.
- Updating the gun debate: Registration and other controls may become infeasible with 3D-printed guns.
- The duck boat in fatal Missouri sinking designed by businessman with no engineering training.
- US Counterintelligence and Security Center report on stealing trade secrets blames China, Russia, Iran.
(5) [Final thought for the day] Anger management: Here's what to do if someone makes you angry.
If the person is junior to you ... count to 10 and then talk.   If the person is equal to you ... count to 30.
If the person is senior to you ... count to 50.   If the person is your wife ... keep on counting, don't talk.

2018/07/26 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Persian calligraphy 'Ey Doost Maraa Beh Khaater Aavar' (1) Persian poetry: When we graduated from Tehran University's College of Engineering in 1968, a couple of friends collected our photos and produced an album with the title "Ey Doost Maraa Beh Khaater Aavar" ("My Friend, Remember Me"). I discovered during our Yerevan reunion trip that the title came from this poem by Malek-ol-Shoa'raa-ye Bahaar. Enjoy!
(2) I don't think Trump has read 1984: He is just reinventing all of George Orwell's ideas! "The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command."
Here is Trump's 2018 version: "Just remember, what you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening."
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- New evidence of liquid water on Mars: The vast, stable supply is a mile under the ice.
- On how old ideas die, making way for new ones: "Science advances one funeral at a time." ~ Max Planck
- Having lost hope on toppling the mullahs, some Iranians are looking for miracles from imam-zadeh Trump.
- Cartoon of the day: Nobody loves obeying the law more than I do! [Image from: The New Yorker]
- Scandals take a toll: Facebook's 20% drop in market value is the largest in US history.
- An amazing feat: A soccer goal, scored from 80 yards out!
- Persian satire: Mr. Haloo pokes fun at Rouhani's warning to Trump that he shouldn't play with the lion's tail.
(4) Santa Barbara's downtown in crisis: I would have thought that, unlike downtowns in other cities, the beautiful business district on our State Street is immune to an economic downturn, given the steady flow of tourists through the area. This SB Independent report paints a different picture. It indicates that the vacancy rate of commercial properties has risen to around 15%, as businesses continue to move out.
(5) Iran admits to hostage-taking: An Iranian judge has confirmed that Iranian-British prisoner Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe won't be released until the UK settles a long-standing debt with Iran.
(6) Insiders and outsiders: In this 20-minute TED-style talk (in Persian), journalist/author Homa Sarshar discusses the problems she has faced as a Jewish Iranian woman, perpetrated not just by Islamic officials in Iran but also by fellow Iranians, including some intellectuals, back home and in exile.

2018/07/25 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
One of the displays at Isfahan Music Museum (1) Isfahan Music Museum: I learned about this central Iranian museum, which is often described as a labor of love by two private collectors (Mehrdad Jeihooni and Shahriar Shokrani), from a friend during our recent reunion in Yerevan. So, I looked it up and decided to share the info here. The instruments on display include the kamancheh, thought to be the ancestor of the modern violin, and the tar, a precursor of the guitar. The museum has a nice Web site, which includes a virtual tour.
(2) Persian poetry: Sa'adi's musings on the importance of joy and dancing is apt advice to the Islamic regime in Iran, which harshly punishes any public display of joy. Here is the full poem on
(3) The part of joint Trump-Putin press conference in which Putin admitted to favoring Trump during the 2016 US election is mysteriously missing from the transcripts issued by the White House!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Hundreds missing after the collapse of a hydro-power dam in Laos.
- Rocket attacks and other explosions in Kabul, Afghanistan, cause multiple casualties.
- Scores dead in Greece from a fast-moving wildfire that trapped them, leaving no escape path.
- From the horse's mouth: Putin admits he wanted Trump to win and that he directed his people to help.
- Someone who cares about human rights in Iran would not cozy up to brutal dictators such as Putin, Kim, ...
- Persian poetry: A lovely verse from Sa'adi about love teaching him poetry.
- US no longer tops in per-capita military spending and China isn't in the top 50: Look to the Middle East!
- China, Russia, and the US are all building centers for AI applications in warfare.
- New evidence of liquid water on Mars: The vast, stable supply is a mile under the ice.
- Physicist Jess Wade wants female scientists to be noticed: So, she wrote 270 Wikipedia profiles.
(5) Book talk, with Backpacker magazine editor Annette McGivney: Talking at Santa Barbara's Public Library (central branch, 6:30 PM) about her new book, Pure Land: A True Story of Three Lives, Three Cultures, and Heaven on Earth (Aquarius Press, 2017), McGivney described her quest to investigate the most brutal murder in the history of Grand Canyon, leading to a most unusual combination of nature and murder-mystery writing. The three lives/cultures mentioned in the title are those of Japanese tourist Tomomi Hanamure, a nature enthusiast and hiker who was brutally murdered during one of her trips to the US, an abused Native-American boy who committed the murder, and McGivney who tried to make sense of the events and weave them into a story of healing and understanding.
(6) Before and after the book talk above: Walking from downtown to Stearns Wharf and back, I noticed that the tourist season is in full swing in Santa Barbara. Stearns Wharf and the restaurants on and around it teemed with visitors, most with kids in tow. This photo shows that meanness has invaded even the language of coin-toss games on the beach next to Stearns Wharf! As I left the Santa Barbara Public Library's Faulkner Gallery, I passed by the SB Courthouse and its Sunken Garden, where I snapped these photos of the sky, building, and a man playing his electric guitar. Here's a video of the man.

2018/07/23 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image for Paolo Coelho's 'The Alchemist' (1) Book review: Coelho, Paolo, The Alchemist, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Jeremy Irons, HarperAudio, 2005.
[My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I had wanted to read this book for a long time, given the broad following it has garnered around the world and numerous quotes and nuggets of wisdom from it floating in cyberspace. Here is an example: "And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." Going in with such high expectations, I was rather disappointed, but the voice of Jeremy Irons in the audiobook version somewhat saved the day for me.
Coelho tells the mythical story of a young Andalusian shepherd who "follows his heart," which tells him to sell his flock and travel to Egypt in search of worldly treasures. As the shepherd travels across northern Africa, he becomes conflicted between settling for romantic love and pursuing his "personal legend."
The young traveler is advised by various individuals that the events in his life are really omens to be carefully considered and "read," in order to determine his future actions, as he moves towards his destiny. One of these individuals is the alchemist of the book's title, an old man who has learned the ways of the world and is at peace with his place in life and the universe.
Coelho weaves a tale filled with self-empowering advice and the need to do what one needs to do, even in the face of fear. However, the advice is too simple-minded and certainly not worthy of the extensive following and the myriad of quotes that it has garnered. Judging by nearly 12,000 Amazon reviews (72% fawning with 5 stars, but 15% giving it 1-3 stars), there are other skeptics about the significance of this book.
Viewed as a fable, the book's uncomplicated prose can be forgiven. However, that same lack of sophistication makes the book far from a literary masterpiece. And the self-help advice part of the book is available in much better form elsewhere.
(2) One-liners: Brief Trump news, Trumpisms, and related memes/humor.
- Citing threats to curtail oil exports, Iran's President Rouhani warns Trump not to play with the lion's tail.
- Trump responds to Rouhani's "don't play with the lion's tail" remark by threatening historic consequences.
- Donald Trump sure yells a lot: Here are some photographic examples.
- After reluctantly admitting that Russia interfered in US election, Trump flip-flops and calls it "a big hoax."
- GOP Senate candidate gets comedic, produces a big laugh: He lauds Trump for standing up to Russia!
(3) One-liners: Brief science, technology, and education news from around the world.
- Univ. of Alabama scientists discover that turning off a mutation reverses wrinkles and hair loss in mice.
- California governor calls for launch of an on-line community college for workers' skills improvement.
- Americans hold on to their smartphones for an average of 32 months.
- Electrical contact to semiconductor molecules demonstrated by Univ. of Basel and IBM Reasearch, Zurich.
- University of Waterloo researchers achieve liquid animation so realistic you can almost taste the honey!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Gunman and one victim dead, 13 injured, in Toronto mass shooting.
- Extreme conditions: Freak weather hits Japan, China, the US and other parts on the world.
- Pronounced "miray-towa" and "soh-may-tow," mascots for Japan's 2022 Olympics and Parolympics named.
- Positive news amid global chaos: Officer gives homeless man a shave to help him in his job quest.
- After the success of an experimental program, New Zealand firm to make its 4-day work-week permanent.

2018/07/21 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Small map of Armenia (1) Reflections on Armenia and its capital city of Yerevan: Having just returned from a week-long trip to Yerevan and nearby locales, for a get-together with my college buddies to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our graduation from Tehran University's College of Engineering, I'd like to share with you some of my observations.
Republic of Armenia is a relatively poor, but very proud country. It was established in 860 BCE and was the first nation to adopt Christianity as its official religion, around the year 301 CE. The ancient Armenian kingdom was split between the Byzantine and Sasanian Empires in the early 5th century.
Erevan or Yerevan, with an elevation of about 1000 m, is one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities in the world. After World War I, Yerevan became the capital of the First Republic of Armenia, as thousands of survivors of the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire arrived in the area.
A most notable feature of Yerevan is the presence of numerous drinking fountains with ice-cold water (bearing no chemicals) in parks and other public places. Yerevan, with a population of around 1 million (1/3 of Armenia's total), is one of the safest cities in the world, and it has very clean air. It is one of the oldest capitals in the world, beating Rome by 29 years.
One sees many Iranian tourists on the streets of Yerevan. Reasons include Yerevan's proximity to Iran, the fact that Iranians need no visa to travel to Armenia, and the very reasonable prices for food and accommodations. As I walked in Yerevan, I came across a mosque that has been refurbished by the Islamic Republic of Iran and a special currency exchange store for Iranian travelers.
(2) Curiosity is good, but keep it in check: Seven-time "Jeopardy!" winner was put on probation by the college where she teaches for inappropriately logging into the email accounts of fellow professors, administrators, and students.
(3) Brief Trump news, Trumpisms, and related memes/humor.
- Whose interests is Trump serving? This 4-minute video answers the question in 10 alarming points.
- The artist who morphed Trump's and Putin's faces for a Time magazine cover image explains her work.
- Russia had access to mass of data collected from Facebook by Cambridge Analytica.
- Humor: Facebook's friendship video for Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.
- Meme of the day: We actually meant Trump shouldn't be President! [Image]
- The Borowitz Report (humor): "Kim Jong Un upset to learn that Trump is seeing other dictators."
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of potential interest.
- At least 13 dead, with 4 still missing, as tourist boat capsizes on a lake in Missouri.
- A dozen more moons of Jupiter discovered, raising the total number to 79.
- A surreal freeway interchange network in China. [Video]
- From E&T magazine 7/2018: "A truly inclusive profession doesn't treat women as a distinct type of worker."
- Full text of the Nelson Mandela Lecture, delivered by former-president Barack Obama on July 17, 2018.
- California Supreme Court nixes measure to split California into three states from the November ballot.
- Santa Barbara joins an expanding list of cities that have outlawed plastic drinking straws.
- A group of young Iranian men travel to provide free haircuts to underprivileged communities.
- Persian poetry: Satire by Hadi Khorsandi. (Our lost Joseph is an asylee in Germany!)
- Quote: "If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable." ~ Louis D. Brandeis

2018/07/19 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) My last day in Yerevan (Wednesday 7/18): After saying good-bye to departing friends at the end of a memorable reunion in Yerevan, Armenia, and seeing them off, I spent some time exploring the city, before heading to visit Dr. Samvel K. Shoukourian (Scientific Leader of YSU's IT Educational and Research Center, Member of Armenia's National Academy of Sciences, and Senior Manager of Embedded Test and Repair Solutions Group at Synopsis Armenia) at Yerevan State University. Our visit was followed by a late lunch at Lavash Restaurant near the Opera House.
Founded in 1919, YSU (aka University of Yerevan) is the oldest continuously-operating public university in Armenia. Following the break-up of the former Soviet Inion, universities, like many other institutions in Armenia, went through difficulties arising from dearth of resources and leadership. Problems still persist, and they are intensified by sociopolitical conflicts in the region. Relations with Russia and Iran are apparently good, but those countries have their own internal challenges.
Dr. Shoukourian provided details of a number of IT programs at YSU, including a joint master's-degree program with University of Rostock (Germany, Prof. Djamshid Tavangarian), in which students study for three semesters at YSU and one semester at Rostock. YSU's IT programs are sponsored by Synopsis, Mentor Graphics (another major tech presence in Armenia), and other industrial partners, which provide mentorships and paid internships. A joint program with San Jose State University covering data analytics is under development.
Formally established in 2007, with roots going back to 2000, the Armenian Virtual College is another major presence in Armenia's higher education scene. Offering instruction in several regional and global languages, AVC uses software platforms that were developed by Dr. Shoukourian.
Dr. Shoukourian and I agreed to look into possible collaborations in the form of joint research and educational programs based on our overlapping and complementary interests.
(2) Heading home: After a final evening stroll in Yerevan on Wednesday and getting some rest, I left my hotel for the airport very early on Thursday 7/19. With the exception of the issue raised in the following blog post, the trip back was rather uneventful. There was certainly no drama resulting from missing a flight!
(3) Manspreading and misplaced nationalism: The first of these photos shows the knee of a Russian man which (like his elbow) was continuously in my space during the long Moscow-LAX Aeroflot flight. This type of not caring for others and encroaching on their personal space is a prominent symptom of, and one of the key reasons for, backwardness in Third-World countries. It affects women to a larger degree than men, and it causes more discomfort for them because of its sexual connotations.
As required of passengers entering the US, I was asked to fill out a US Customs and Border Protection form, which was inexplicably in Russian. When I inquired what to do, a flight attendant told me that I can find the English version on page so-and-so of the Aeroflot Magazine. It was printed with such small font, however, that I had to take a photo of it and enlarge the resulting image for reading, taking care to enter each answer in the correct space of the Russian form. How difficult is it for Aeroflot to stock the original English version of the form for the many non-Russians who enter the US on their planes?
(4) Persian poetry: As I headed home on Thursday morning, I dedicated these verses about love and friendship to all the friends whose companionship in Yerevan over the last few days was energy-inducing and refreshing. Until we meet again! On the flight from Moscow to Los Angeles, I wrote a poem of my own to commemorate the Yerevan meeting with 16 classmates, 2 contemporaries from the civil engineering major, 9 wives, and 2 other family members.

2018/07/17 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Panoramic view of the hilltop Black Church and Sevan Lake (1) Panoramic view of the hilltop Black Church and Sevan Lake: The lake, known for the second-highest altitude in the world at 2800 meters, and the town of Sevan take their names from the 9th-Century church [Dynamic panorama]. And here is a view of Yerevan's Republic Square [Dynamic panorama].
(2) Points of interest in Armenia, visited over the past couple of days:
The memorial monument to the Armenian Genocide in Yerevan (7/16) [Photos].
Saint Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral in Yerevan (7/16) [Photos].
Mother-of-Armenia monument in Yerevan (7/16) [Photos].
The 1000-Steps Public Square is a source of pride and a center for arts in Yerevan (7/16) [Photos].
Evening walk from our hotel to Yerevan's Republic Square and beyond, to the Opera House (7/16) [Photos].
Enjoying music with old-time friends at one of the open-air cafes adjoining Yerevan's Opera House [Video].
Valley of Flowers achieved status when the Soviet Olympics team trained there before Mexico games [Photos].
The 9th-Century Black Church, near Sevan, Armenia [Photos] [Video, singing on the bus].
(3) Meals: We had breakfast at the hotel, as usual. Here are photos and two videos of our lunch on Monday 7/16 [Photos] [Video 1] [Video 2]. Like Sunday night, we gathered on Monday night 7/16 for a late dinner and entertainment at a friend's hotel suite. On Tuesday, we had lunch on the shore of Sevan Lake [Photos]. Tuesday's dinner was the last one for us as a group [Video 1] [Video 2]. Here are some group musical performances late at night [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3] ["Maraa Beboos"] ["Ey Iran"] [Video 6].
(4) Reunion activites and events: Unveiling of the banner that commemorates our 50th-anniversary reunion in Yerevan, Armenia. In front of Hotel Metropol, after retuning from Tuesday's touring and before going out for our last dinner as a group [Photos]. After Tuesday's dinner, we gathered in the hotel lobby to sign the reunion banner and give appreciations [Photos] [Video 1] [Video 2].
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of potential interest.
- Trump: "Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness ..."
- One more witch: This one, investigated by the US Justice Dept., was actually arrested, not just indicted.
- MGM sues 1000 victims of the Vegas mass shooting in a preventive measure to dismiss/stop lawsuits.
- As usual, the press is being blamed for Trump's wreck of a performance at the Helsinki summit with Putin.
- Cartoon of the day: What Trump did in Helsinki left Russians celebrating and Americans reeling. [Image]
- Diamonds aren't rare at all: At 10^15 tons, they are 1000 times more common than previously thought.
- Gigantic 11-million-ton iceberg threatens to inundate tiny Greenland village with tsunami. [Photo]

2018/07/15 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Soccer World Cup 2018: Completed bracket (1) Getting to Yerevan and my first day there: My trip began Friday morning with a ride on Santa Barbara Airbus (which took the PCH to avoid congestion on 101 and 405), followed by a 12-hour Aeroflot flight to Moscow. Due to inattention to announcements in a very busy and chaotic airport, I missed my connecting flight to Yerevan and ended up paying a very steep panalty to purchase a new ticket (the new ticket cost a tad more than the entire LAX-Yerevan round-trip ticket I had purchased for the trip, and I received very poor service from Aeroflot personnel in trying to arrange another flight). While waiting an extra 7 hours at Moscow Airport, I watched Belgium beat England 2-0 in an exciting 3rd-place World Cup match. Very tired after a super-long day, I arrived at and settled in my spacious room in Hotel Metropol early Sunday morning. In the evening of my first day in Yerevan, a number of friends and I had a World Cup watching party at our hotel's outdoors sports bar. In a fast-moving and somewhat dirty match, France got some help from Croatia (an own goal and a PK) to beat it 4-2. The subscript after a team's abbreviation in the chart above is its 2017 FIFA world ranking.
(2) Sightseeing in Yerevan: The Temple of Garni is the only standing Greco-Roman colonnaded building in Armenia and the former Soviet Union. An Ionic temple located in the village of Garni, Armenia, it is the best-known structure and symbol of pre-Christian Armenia. (Info from: Wikipedia) Our tour guide stated that the structure was a Zoroastrian fire temple. [Photos] [Video, spiritual music]
The medieval monastery Geghard in the Kotayk province of Armenia is partially carved out of the adjacent mountain, surrounded by cliffs. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Info from: Wikipedia) [Photos]
At a Mt. Ararat vista point, haze prevented us from seeing the mountain today. Armenians consider Mt. Ararat, located in Turkey, sacred and believe that it will someday be reunited with Armenia. [Photos] [Video, music] [Video, our group getting off the bus] [Singing in the tour bus: Video 1; Video 2, Video 3]
(3) Meals: The hotel provided breakfast [Photos]. We had a group lunch as part of the guided tour [Video]. We had a light dinner at a friend's hotel suite and also some entertainment, involving violin music and group singing. [Photos] [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3]

Poster for Fanni class of 1968 reunion in July 2018 2018/07/14 (Saturday): I am in Yerevan for the 50th Anniversary Reunion of the 1968 graduates of Tehran University's College of Engineering. I will update this entry and post new entries about Soccer World Cup 2018 outcome and my experiences in Armenia upon my return on Thursday 7/19.
As one of the activities associated with this gathering, I have been updating, with help from former classmates, a list of the graduates and our professors/instructors on my Personal Web Page.
P.S.: It's so ironic that graduates of an Iranian university cannot celebrate such a momentous anniversary in Iran. It's doubly painful that those of us traveling from outside Iran will get so close to the country of our birth and growing-up, without being able to visit it. Oh well!

2018/07/13 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Women in the US Congress: Map (1) Women in Congress: According to this Time magazine map, every US state but Vermont has sent at least one woman to Congress. The first woman to serve in Congress, Jeannette Rankin of Montana, was elected in 1916, four years before women were able to vote nationwide. Twenty states have never had a woman Senator. More details can be found in these interactive maps.
(2) Photos taken yesterday afternoon, as I walked home from work: The interesting cotton-candy cloud patterns formed excellent backdrops for these photos I snapped around UCSB's Storke Tower and the campus Arts District.
(3) Iranian man flogged for drinking as a teenager a decade ago: Amnesty International
(4) Democrat defends FBI agent Peter Strzok during Congressional hearing by reading quotes from Republican lawmakers who also expressed serious reservations about Trump's character flaws.
(5) Course review: Messenger, Professor Bill (Peabody Conservatory of Music), Elements of Jazz: From Cakewalks to Fusion, 8 lectures in the "Great Courses" series (8 CDs + guidebook), The Teaching Company, 1995. [My 4-star review of this course on GoodReads]
Let me begin by listing the lecture titles, which provide a good sense of what the course is about.
Lecture 1: Plantation Beginnings
Lecture 2: The Rise and Fall of Ragtime
Lecture 3: The Jazz Age
Lecture 4: Blues
Lecture 5: The Swing Era
Lecture 6: Boogie, Big Band Blues, and Bop
Lecture 7: Modern Jazz
Lecture 8: The ABCs of Jazz Improvisation
The guidebook ends with biographies of performers/bandleaders/singers/composers, a timeline, and bibliography.
Jazz had its beginnings in plantations and slaves singing using primitive banjos made of a bowl and a stick and similarly primitive percussion devices. One context in which early jazz was played was cakewalk, in which contestants would emulate the walk of their masters moving toward a cake, which they could win as a prize.
Before the age of microphones and amplifiers, guitars, drum brushes, and other instruments with small sounds were not used, as they could not be heard in the back of the room. Subtler instruments such as guitars and clarinets replaced banjos and tubas, as the loudness of sound was no longer a factor.
Plantation music evolved through ragtime, jazz, and blues. Swing music was the big-band version of jazz, with elaborate production and minimal or non-existent improvisation. Swing bands played music that people danced to, but their music quality was impressive. By contrast, society bands just focused on dance tunes. Blues music later gave rise to rock-n-roll.
I found the course very useful for understanding and appreciating jazz in its many forms

2018/07/12 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
My four chain-tweets on the perils of artificial intelligence (1) Here are my four chain-tweets this morning about an open letter, signed by Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and others, that is sometimes erroneously characterized as a stern warning on the perils of artificial intelligence.
(2) Current composition of the US Supreme Court (Time magazine chart) and how it has shifted to the right over the years (Mother Jones chart). [Charts]
(3) Here is what I think: Trump is utterly incapable of saying anything wise or profound that would make the headlines, so he gets himself in the news by making stupid and inflammatory remarks. He has made himself and us Americans laughingstocks of the world.
(4) Irony of the day: The man who compliments Putin and Russia at every opportunity, and who takes Putin's claim that Russia did not interfere in US elections at face value, accuses a European leader, who grew up behind the Iron Curtain and celebrated with her family the fall of the Berlin Wall, of being a Putin stooge!
(5) This Trump-Putin cartoon from a year ago is again topical, as the mutually-admiring racist despots, who have mastered the art of fake news, are set to meet.
(6) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of potential interest.
- Trump disses NATO before his summit with Putin: John Kelly's body language is priceless!
- Game of Thrones, SNL, Westworld, and Handmaid's Tale lead in Emmy nominations; Netflix tops HBO.
- Soccer World Cup: FIFA takes a stand against broadcasters zooming in on "hot women" during games.
- "People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for." ~ Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
- The beautiful night sky in Goleta, California, photographed on July 11, 2018. [Photos]
- UCSB Librarian Kristin Antelman combines a lifelong love of libraries with a passion for technology.
Cover image for Lisa Scottoline's 'Exposed' (7) Book review: Scottoline, Lisa, Exposed, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Kate Burton, Macmillan Audio, 2017. [My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
A law firm run by two women, colleagues and close personal friends Bennie Rosato and Mary DiNunzio, gets entangled in a case of conflict of interest, when Mary decides to defend a close friend wrongly fired by a subsidiary of a parent company, which is represented by Bennie. The book is part of Scottoline's "Rosato and Associates" series.
It appears that the fired man was let go because his cancer-stricken daughter would cost the company a fortune in out-of-pocket payments and raised insurance premiums. Of course, true to form for a legal thriller, things aren't as they seem and quite a few surprises await the women en route to resolving the problems, testing their friendship and professional commitments along the way.
Scottoline is a capable, best-selling author. In this book, parts of the writing are compelling and engaging, while other parts are filled with cliches and mushy expressions. An entertaining read/listen, and nothing more!

2018/07/11 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Soccer World Cup 2018 bracket as of July 11, 2018 (1) Soccer World Cup 2018: In Tueday's semifinals match, France was dominated early on by Belgium's possession game, but a couple of counter-attacks later, the play evened up. In the scoreless first half, Belgium trailed on shots taken. France scored in the 51st minute, prevailing 1-0. France deserved to win, but Belgium (my predicted World Cup champions) played one of their worst games, turning the ball over on numerous occasions.
In Wednesday's semifinals match, England scored on a 5th-minute free kick from outside the box, the only goal before halftime. Croatia came to life when it evened up the score in the 68th minute on a service from the right, claiming the momentum and gaining several scoring opportunities, but the match went into extra time, tied 1-1. Croatia took the lead in the 109th minute, advancing to the finals match against France. Croatia's 2-1 victory crushed England's dream of returning to the World Cup finals after 52 years.
(2) New Yorker humor about future nuptials: "The MacMillans announce the engagement of their daughter to a man with really fantastic health insurance."
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of potential interest.
- Americans in London told to keep low profile during Trump visit: Inflatable baby-Trump floated in protest.
- The nightmare continues: Trump accuses Germany of being totally controlled by Russia!
- A picture's worth a thousand words: Nato summit participants talk around and over Trump. [Photo]
- Flooded-cave rescue completed in Thailand: All 12 boys and their coach are now out.
- Woodland Hills postal worker found dead in her truck during Friday's extreme heat in Los Angeles.
- "They go low, we go high": A Chinese trade official uses Michelle Obama's phrase as a double-jab at Trump.
- Oil tanker collides with bus, killing at least 13 in the western Iranian city of Sanandaj.
- Persian music: Koorosh Yazdani's musical interpretation of Forough Farrokhzad's poem "Ghazal." [VoA]
(4) Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh nearly had me fooled: As I listened to him accepting the nomination, I thought he was quite warm and reasonable. Far from it! Information is emerging on his past activities and opinions that is troubling, to say the least, particularly the parts about deeming the President immune from prosecution and lawsuits (and this from a man who wanted to crucify Bill Clinton for his digressions). And I am not defending Clinton; just pointing out the hypocrisy.
(5) The 2018 documentary "Anote's Ark" (Trailer): Unfortunately, I could not attend the film's screening at UCSB last night, but I will look for another opportunity to watch it. The film is about the tiny Pacific nation of Kiribati (population: 100,000) which is facing an existential threat due to sea-level rise. The country's president is hard at work to protect his people and find a solution that maintains their dignity. Many of the country's citizens have already started moving away, leaving behind 4000 years of Kiribati culture. The film's editor and executive producer Mila Aung-Thwin was to join moderator Michael Harrahan in a post-screening discussion.

2018/07/09 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Four photos from my evening walk, today (1) Photos taken during my walk, this evening. Note the plane approaching Santa Barbara Airport in one photo.
(2) Understanding the Thailand cave-rescue operation: The cave dips from its entrance and then rises to where the soccer team is trapped [Map]. Parts of the cave between the team's location and the entrance are flooded. The only way out entails swimming underwater at a depth of 30 m. Drilling a hole (a la the collapsed Chilean-mine rescue) and building a compact underwater transport (Elon Musk's proposal) have been contemplated.
(3) Justice, Islamic-Republic-of-Iran style: Rapists and billion-dollar embezzlers go unpunished, but a teenager who posts dance videos on social media is charged with "spreading prostitution" and forced to tearfully recant on TV, and another young woman who dared to take off her scarf is sentenced to 20 years in jail, with her lawyer (rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh) also arrested and charged. [Reza Khandan's FB post, in Persian]
(4) NASA may have found space rocks under the sea for the first time: Scientists think they have located two hunks of a 2-ton meteorites that burst into the atmosphere over the northwestern US on March 7, 2018.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of potential interest.
- North Korea demands $1 billion from Israel, or it will sell missile technology to Iran.
- North Korea calls talks with Pompeo 'regrettable' because of his demand for unilateral denuking of NK.
- Iran's OPEC Chief: Donald Trump's tweets were responsible for a $10 rise in oil prices.
- Iran's harsh treatment of the dancing teen amid economic crisis brings criticism from all sides.
- The price of freedom to drive: An intensified crackdown on Saudi feminists [Time magazine, July 9, 2018]
- Trump memes: One posted by Don Jr. for July 4th and one ridiculing his self-promoting "success stories."
- Spiders use the Earth's electric field to fly hundreds of miles.
- Scientists argue re the relative merits of exploring Europa or Enceladus (Jupiter's moons) for signs of life.
(6) A rare genetic anomaly: An 11-year-old girl, one of only 25 known cases worldwide, all females, got nearly all of her genes from her dad and almost none from her mom.
(7) Habibi you can drive my car: Beatles' song, arranged by cellist Naseem Alatrash and featuring vocalist Nano Raies, is dedicated to Saudi women who have been allowed to drive.
(8) Final thought for the day: Try to imagine what Don the Con would be tweeting today about Putin, had Russia been caught meddling in favor of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election!

2018/07/07 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The magnificent sunset on Moonstone Beach, near Cambria, California (1) Having a wonderful time in the beautiful Cambria, California: I am participating in a family retreat on California's Central Coast, July 4-8: We watched a fireworks show (Photos, Video 1, Video 2, the finale) in Shamel Park, along Moonstone Beach, did lots of walking, watched some soccer, visited Hearst Castle (Cottages, Kitchen/Wine-Cellar, Outside/Pools), walked by Morro Rock, dined in the area's wonderful eateries, and still had plenty of time to read, relax, and engage in family conversations. We stayed at Cambria Pines Lodge, which offered a free breakfast buffet and live music in its lounge. The sunset photo is from our Moonstone Beach bluffs-top walk on July 7.
(2) Friday 7/06 in Soccer World Cup: Brazil outshot Belgium by a three-to-one ratio, but Belgium took a 2-goal lead and eventually prevailed 2-1 [highlights], thanks to their goalie's heroism. They will face France, 2-0 winners over Uruguay, in the first semifinals match [highlights]. It's going to be an all-European semifinals!
(3) Saturday 7/07 in Soccer World Cup: Sweden prevailed 2-0 over England to advance [highlights]. Tied 2-2 at the end of overtime, Croatia ended Russia's dream run 4-3 on PKs [highlights]. Semifinals matches will be played on Tuesday 7/10 (France-Belgium) and Wednesday 7/11 (Croatia-England).
Cover image for Laura Hillenbrand's 'Unbroken' (4) Book review: Hillenbrand, Laura, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Edward Hermann, Random House Audio, 2010.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This World War II biographical tome tells the life story of Louis Zamperini [1917-2014], famed Olympics miler and survivor of Japanese POW camps, his heroism, and his multiple brushes with death. The bomber plane carrying Zamperini and 10 others crashed in the Pacific Ocean, killing nearly the entire crew and leading to a remarkable feat of survival on a flimsy raft for him and a buddy, both subsequently captured by the Japanese some 2000 miles from the point of crash.
While Zamperini's spirit never broke in captivity, despite the horrendous abuse, torture, and starvation, he nearly came to a breaking point upon his return to the US at the end of hostilities. The psychological damage was just too great. He was saved from madness by Rev. Billy Graham and Zamperini's own remembering a promise he made to himself during desperate times that if was saved from that situation, he would devote himself to God's work.
The plight of US prisoners of war in Japan is frightening: While only 1% of American POWs died in Europe, nearly one third perished in Japanese prison-camp sites, many of which were not even registered as POW camps to avoid international scrutiny and inspections. Zamperini's spiritual awakening led him to forgive his Japanese tormentors, including the man nicknamed "The Bird,' who was the most abusive.
Hillenbrand's research and attention to detail is remarkable. The reader/listener feels s/he is present in the scenes described, be they aboard a bomber being riddled with bullets from Japanese planes, weeks afloat on a raft circled by sharks, or months of abuse and torture by sadistic guards, who forced prisoners into slave labor and nearly starved them to death by stealing their rations. At times, the narrative becomes repetitive, but it is, by and large, captivating and gut-wrenching.
To be fair, Hillenbrand has been accused of exaggerating Zamperini's heroism and of becoming too awestruck by his tales to see his faults. However, it is often true of biographies that they are written by adoring or adversarial observers, the two groups of people most motivated to write. Hillenbrand may have bought into some of Zamperini's stories without due diligence, but her Unbroken is epic nonetheless.
Zamperini's life was the subject of the 1992 movie, "Zamperini: Still Carrying the Torch." This piece, entitled "The Rest of the Story: The Life of Louis Zamperini after 'Unbroken'," provides additional interesting tidbits on Louis Zamperini's life.

2018/07/05 (Thursday): Book review: Abbott, Edwin A., Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, Dover, 1992 (originally published by Seeley & Co., Ltd., in 1884). [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Cover image for Edwin A. Abbott's 'Flatland' This imaginative book is a rather short one (my Dover edition has 83 pages), but it contains much food for thought. The central theme is life and its perception in a 0D world or Pointland, a 1D world or Lineland, a 2D world or Flatland, and a 3D world or Spaceland, with references to even higher-dimensional worlds. The book's old prose style makes it difficult to understand some of the concepts, but it is an enjoyable read nonetheless.
Ever since Einstein presented his theory of relativity, we have gotten used to thinking of 4D spacetime, with its extra dimension, that is, time, not quite the same as the other three dimensions. But beyond 4 dimensions, our intuition fails us. Contemplating life in lower-dimensional worlds could be useful for visualizing and understanding higher-dimensional worlds. When we read about the challenges of a denizen of Spaceland trying to make a Flatland creature understand the notion of the third dimension or "height," we realize how limited our faculties are in visualizing more dimensions.
The bulk of the book is about Flatland, a 2D world holding various geometric life forms. Women are straight line segments, soldiers and lower classes are acute isosceles triangles, middle-class men are equilateral triangles, and so on; the higher the social class, the larger the number of sides, with the highest class, the priests, being circular or nearly-circular (they have so many sides that it is hard to tell them apart from perfect circles). Flatland houses are polygons with their "roofs" toward the north, where rain comes from. Everything is attracted toward the south, the analog of gravity in our 3D world.
A streak of misogyny runs through the narrative, which isn't surprising, given the book's original publication in the late 1800s and the author being a theologian. I could not ascertain whether the misogyny is tongue-in-cheek, meant to be humorous like many other aspects of the narrative, or there is a serious view of women as the "frail" sex [p. 12] that, nevertheless, have to be watched carefully for the tricks they may have up their sleeves, including the ability to harm others with their pointy ends and to make themselves nearly invisible. Elsewhere, we read about the scandals that might befall the upper classes if they were mistakenly thought to be women with "frivolous and unseemly conduct" [p. 30]. The narrator, a Spaceland man, talks about his wife "whose good sense far exceeds that of the average of her Sex" [p. 75] and about a particular explanation being so simple and straightforward "as to be patent even to the Female Sex" [p. 77].
The question of distinguishing different Flatland denizens, particularly friends from foes, in a world where everyone seems like a straight line-segment is discussed at length, as are the concepts of marriage, procreation, and so on. In fact, things get even eerier in Lineland, where everyone looks like a point (a woman). Even line segments of varying lengths (young men and men of different ages) would be indistinguishable from points in the absence of some other sensory capabilities, which are postulated. "[L]ife in Lineland must be deplorably dull. To see nothing but a Point! Not even to be able to contemplate a Straight Line! Nay, not even to know what a Straight Line is!" [p. 49] And in Pointland, everything is one and the same, giving rise to the King/God of Pointland who can never be rescued from his self-satisfaction. (Sounds familiar?)
The Flatland narrator takes it upon himself to preach the Gospel of Three Dimensions, something that gets him in deep trouble with the authorities! Eventually, he finds it safer to speak and write of Thoughtland, where taboo notions are viewed as figments of our imagination, rather than suggesting a concrete 3D land.

2018/07/04 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Lady Liberty and fireworks (1) Happy July 4th to all fellow Americans! Here is one of my favorite quotes about patriotism, coming from former French President Charles de Gaulle: "Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first."
(2) Iranian women rock! At great risk of physical harm, not just from government thugs but also from backward men on the street who see women's empowerment as a threat to their power, women disobey mandatory headscarf laws and bans against all signs of vitality and joy (colorful clothing, singing, dancing, laughing in public).
(3) We stigmatize accents, but language belongs to everyone: Argentinian-born scholar/novelist Hernan Diaz reads his essay about accent discrimination and why instead of ridiculing accents we should celebrate them.
(4) Cartoon caption of the day (in court): "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, even though nobody has any idea what that is anymore?" [From: The New Yorker]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of potential interest.
- Cohen is third associate to indicate Trump knows more about the meeting with Russians than he lets on.
- Rebuking Trump, key Senate panel endorses finding that Russia attacked the 2016 US election.
- Ethical questions about EPA chief Scott Pruitt keep piling up with release of new e-mails.
- White House tweets personal attacks on Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren for stance on ICE.
- Multiple wildfires are still burning out of control in Northern California.
- Music news: David Foster proposes to Katharine McPhee during romantic Italian vacation.
- Iranian officials are scared of my hair, says Iranian journalist and women's-rights activist Masih Alinejad.
(6) Now, a couple of days of rest from soccer: World Cup schedule for the remaining eight matches involving 6 European and 2 South American teams. All times PDT. I will be watching the final match in Yerevan, Armenia!
Soccer World Cup 2018 logo Fri. 7/06: Uruguay v. France (Fox Sports, 7:00 AM)
Fri. 7/06: Brazil v. Belgium (Fox Sports, 11:00 AM)
Sat. 7/07: Sweden v. England (Fox, 7:00 AM)
Sat. 7/07: Russia v. Croatia (Fox, 11:00 AM)
Tue. 7/10: Uruguay/France winner v. Brazil/Belgium winner (Fox, 11:00 AM)
Wed. 7/11: Russia/Croatia winner v. Sweden/England winner (Fox, 11:00 AM)
Sat. 7/14: Third-place match between semifinals losers (Fox, 7:00 AM)
Sun. 7/15: Championship match between semifinals winners (Fox, 7:00 AM)
(7) Presidential lies are getting bigger by the day: Trump's claim that the Obama administration granted 2500 US citizenship visas to Iranians (including many officials) as part of the nuclear deal is totally baseless.
(8) Final thought for the day: The entire immigration debate and made-up stats for crimes and other misdeeds by illegal aliens are just methods to distract the working poor by blaming their misery on other working poor, rather than on income inequality and corporate welfare in the form of subsidies and tax breaks.

2018/07/03 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Soccer World Cup 2018 bracket as of July 03, 2018 (1) Monday 7/02 in Soccer World Cup: Two matches played in the round of 16.
- After 50 minutes of relentless attack, Brazil finally got through and took a 1-0 lead over Mexico. An 89th-minute second goal sealed Mexico's fate, 0-2.
- Japan fought valiantly to keep the first half scoreless against an explosive Belgian team. Then, instead of Belgium taking over in the second half, Japan scored twice in the first 7 minutes. Belgium floundered for a while, but then woke up to score two quick goals to even up the match 2-2. With big saves by the two goalies near the end, it seemed that the match would be going into overtime, but Belgium scored on a counter-attack in the last minute of stoppage time to win 3-2. [2-minute highlights]
(2) Tuesday 7/03 in Soccer World Cup: Today's matches set up the quarterfinals roster, per the chart above.
- Sweden squeezed by Switzerland 1-0, on a shot that was deflected, but wasn't ruled an own goal.
- England scored on a PK in the 57th minute and Colombia equalized in the third minute of stoppage time. Extra time produced no goals and England won 4-3 on PKs.
[Marginal note 1: The score box at the top of the TV screen shows the teams' jersey colors between the flag symbols and country names (in this image, yellow for Sweden, red for Switzerland).]
[Marginal note 2: When is a soccer score classified as an own goal? This question arose and was answered after Sweden's sole goal today. If the shot isn't on frame but is deflected into the net, it's an own goal, otherwise (when it is on target but deflected into the net), it is a regular goal credited to the player taking the shot.]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of potential interest.
- North Korea is reportedly expanding its production facility for ballistic missiles.
- Six children and three adults stabbed at birthday party, four of them critically, in building housing refugees.
- All 12 boys and their soccer coach, who were trapped in a flooded cave in Tahiland, found alive.
- Arrested US Border Patrol Agent is accused of distributing child pornography through an iPhone app.
- Nobel Laureate and UCSB professor Shuji Nakamura honored by Carnegie Corp. as a 'Great Immigrant.'
- Microsoft to release pocket computing device sporting a double-size foldable display with no hinge gap.
- Fresh protests erupt: in the southern Iranian city of Abadan over pollution and shortage of drinking water.
- Signs from the June 30 nationwide protests against family separations and inhumane immigration policies.
- "Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little." ~ Edmund Burke
- So much of "AI" is just figuring out ways to offload work onto random strangers. [Cartoon][Source: xkcd]
(4) California AG adds OK to a ban (AB 1887) on state-funded and state-sponsored travel to states with laws that discriminate against LGBTQ people. These states include: AL, KS, KY, MS, NC, SD, TN, TX.
(5) Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen breaks his silence in interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos. Cohen, who once said he'd take a bullet for Trump, now declares his loyalty to his family and country. He answered no significant question in his ABC News interview, citing "advice from counsel." Meanwhile, he is aiming for a book deal and new business opportunities by wrapping himself in the flag.

2018/07/01 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Poster for Marjan Satrapi's 'Persepolis' (1) Summer Cinema (Under the Stars) in Santa Barbara: "Animated Nights," film screenings in July & August
Wednesdays / 7:30 PM / UCSB Campbell Hall
Fridays / 8:30 PM / SB County Courthouse Sunken Garden
- F 7/06 (only): The 19th Annual Animation Show of Shows
- W 7/11 & F 7/13: The Triplets of Belleville
- W 7/18 & F 7/20: Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
- W 7/25 & F 7/27: Fantastic Mr. Fox
- W 8/01 (only): Ratatouille
- W 8/08 & F 8/10: The Iron Giant
- W 8/15 & F 8/17: Persepolis (see image)
- W 8/22 & F 8/24: Loving Vincent
(2) The Bitcoin system is vulnerable to collusion among participating miners: In an article appearing in Communications of the ACM, issue of July 2018, entitled "Majority Is Not Enough: Bitcoin Mining is Vulnerable," Itty Ayal and and Gun Sirer discuss the nature of this vulnerability, which arises from the invalidity of the self-interest assumption in Bitcoin mining. One key open challenge is the process by which security vulnerabilities might be disclosed to decentralized blockchain projects so as to prevent the abuse of the said information by those receiving it.
(3) Political humor: A well-researched Bill Maher monologue, telling us that our health and longevity depends more on what we do collectively than on our individual dietary and exercise choices.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of potential interest.
- A rhetorical question: Will Michael Cohen emerge as a national hero by helping to bring Trump down?
- Teacher to student: "I appreciate the text, Kate, but next time please just raise your hand."
- The law of USB cables: No matter how many you buy, you have at most one that works.
- "Happiness does not depend on what you have or who you are. It solely relies on what you think." ~ Buddha
- I have been doing engineering wrong: Must include the side effect of sarcasm! [Diagram]
- Cartoon of the day: A quintessentially human thing that computers can't do! [Image source: xkcd]
(5) Saturday 6/30 in Soccer World Cup: Two matches were played in the round of 16. The hoped-for face-off between Messi and Ronaldo did not materialize, as both Argentina and Portugal were eliminated.
- France scored first on a PK, but Argentina scored twice to make it 2-1. France took a commanding 4-2 lead with three closely-spaced goals. Argentina scored in stoppage time to make it 4-3, but time ran out for them.
- Uruguay scored in the 6th minute, but Portugal scored early in the second half to even it up. Shortly thereafter, Uruguay took the lead for good, winning 2-1
(6) Sunday 7/01 in Soccer World Cup: Two matches were played in the round of 16.
- The cinderella team, 65th-ranked Russia, tied 1-1 with 8th-ranked Spain after overtime, won 4-3 on PKs. The next lowest-ranked teams remaining in the tournament are Japan (44th) and Sweden (25th).
- In the battle of equals, 18th-ranked Croatia and 19th-ranked Denmark, the score was 1-1 after 4 minutes and at the end of 90 minutes. Croatia failed to convert on a PK in extra time, sending the match into the PK shoot-out, which Croatia won 3-2. Half of the 10 PK shots were saved by the goalies!

2018/06/30 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image for Dan Ariely's 'The Upside of Irrationality' (1) Book review: Ariely, Dan, The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Simon Jones, HarperAudio, 2010.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This sequel, from the author of the highly successful Predictably Irrational, a book about how human-beings' irrational behavior undermines standard economic theories, which are based on rational decision-making, looks at the flip side of the coin: That our survival is actually dependent on that irrational behavior. Ariely, a Duke University professor, draws upon his own and other social-scientists' research (in a field known as "behavioral economics"), as well as medical experiments, to ask and answer a multitude of questions about human decision-making and how to improve it.
Examples of useful and often counterintuitive insights abound in this book. For instance, when monetary bonuses get too large, they begin having a detrimental effect on performance. You can imagine that studying the effects of large bonuses can quickly get quite expensive for the experimenter! So, much of the work about this topic was performed in India, where one can pay the equivalent of several months' salary as a reward, without bankrupting the research project.
As another example, we tend to overvalue things that we make and ideas that we conceive, even if they are lousy compared with other options (the "Ikea effect" and the not-invented-here syndrome). Thus, even though assembling an IKEA bookshelf, say, requires no creativity on our part, we still cherish the finished product as if it were our creation. This bias explains why managers continue to pour resources into a failing project, after expending much time and effort on it, and why offering customization options to customers pays off. By the way, the Ikea effect isn't unique to humans, as certain animals also exhibit the bias.
Another interesting insight is the key role of revenge in human emotions and behavior. If you are given $20, say, and instructed to pass on a portion of it to another participant, with each of you keeping your share if the other side accepts the offer and neither of you getting to keep any of it if the offer is rejected, you might be tempted to offer a small amount to maximize your own share. However, the other participant may reject an offer of $1, say, thus depriving himself of $1, so as to punish you for your stinginess. Revenge is an important human trait that also rears its head in many other contexts, such as in trying to punish a company that offers poor customer service.
Ariely weaves into the narrative a number of autobiographical elements, including the challenges he faced as a burn patient, making this book more personal, and somewhat more accessible, than Predictably Irrational. The book is a pleasant read/listen, that requires very little in terms of background knowledge.
[Dan Ariely's 20-minute TEDx talk on what makes us feel good about our work.]
(2) Ojai Valley Lavender Festival, today in Ojai's Libby Park: Parking near Bart's Books, the world-famous outdoors bookstore, I walked towards the festival venue, snapping these photos. After arriving in the park, I took 3 photos and a video of the Sound Arch, located at the entrance to Libby Bowl. A hundreds or so protesters were holding signs and chanting along the main downtown street in front of the park, in solidarity with nationwide protests against inhumane immigration policies and separation of families seeking asylum in the US. A pleasant part of the Lavender Festival and others of its kind is the local musical talent that is often comparable in quality to the best national groups. I managed to watch performances by three such groups while I was at the Festival: Lynn Mullins & Coyote Creek (Video 1, Video 2); Cindy Kalmenson & the Lucky Ducks (Video 1, Video 2); Smitty & Julija (Video 1, Video 2). The last act above was a duo, which had a couple of guest performers and is leaving on a European and Middle Eastern tour tomorrow.

2018/06/29 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Five victims of the 2018/06/28 mass shooting at 'Capital Gazette' (1) Survivors of yesterday's mass shooting at Capital Gazette in Annapolis, MD, during which 5 employees were killed and 2 were injured, have pledged to put out a paper today. [Photos depict the 5 murdered employees: "Enemies of the American people"]
(2) Remembering Mona: Widespread international outrage at the execution of Mona, the youngest of nine Baha'i women killed on June 18, 1983, helped bring the executions to an end, but persecution of Baha'is continues unabated.
(3) Cover of Communications of the ACM, issue of July 2018: The lamb on the cover has cut-out eyes, which show the eyes of a wolf on the next page. The message is the need to make machine learning robust against adversarial inputs. [Full text of the cover-feature article]
(4) Airbnb on travel ban: In a statement on the SCOTUS affirming Trump's travel ban, Airbnb has pledged matching donations to the International Refugee Assistance Project. "We believe that travel is a transformative and powerful experience and that building bridges between cultures and communities creates a more innovative, collaborative and inspired world."
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of potential interest.
- There are no World Cup soccer matches today, so here's something for you to watch to avoid boredom!
- Massive outage of Comcast services shows the Internet's extreme fragility. [Wired story]
- Trump to meet with his very honest boss to make plans against dishonest FBI and American press.
- No child separation here, unless Stephen Miller becomes a liability, apt for under-the-bus duty! [Cartoon]
- The Iranian economy and currency are in turmoil, but President Rouhani says not to worry! [Images]
- Iranian Dance: Niosha Dance Academy students perform at a Golden State Warriors basketball game.
- [Book picks for learning to program] Elementary: Programming 101; Advanced: Programming 1100101
- Moon-rise and sunset Tuesday evening, at Goleta's Coal Oil Point and in the vicinity of Devereux Slough.
(6) [Humor] My tweet prediction: "Low-IQ Michael Cohen knows nothing about me. He made coffee at the office; and it was awful coffee, even worse than the coffee made by George Papadopoulos and Paul Manafort."
(7) The Internet Apologizes: This is the title of an article in New York Magazine, with the premise that "free information" (that is, information provider's costs covered by ad revenues) was a mistake that must be fixed ASAP. On the surface, sellers and marketers pay for ads, but because they inevitably recover the costs of advertising from us buyers, the scheme amounts to a non-transparent tax on everyone. Other than this hidden tax, we pay for the "free" information by giving our private data to advertisers or intermediaries, so as to allow ad placement linked to our interests. The ad-revenue model has also provided incentives for social media and news outlets to gravitate toward outrageous stories and click-baits, in an effort to attract more eyeballs. We brought this on ourselves!
(8) Final thought for the day: Iran's soccer coach Carlos Queiroz fields his complaints in a news conference, speaking about lack of transparency in FIFA's decisions, which favor major teams and big-name players.

2018/06/28 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Soccer World Cup 2018 bracket as of June 28, 2018 (1) Predicting the World Cup champion: The round-of-16 match-ups are now set, as shown in the accompanying bracket, which also includes the teams' FIFA world rankings as subscripts, to help others in making predictions. The top half of the bracket includes all the top-5 teams, with the exception of the number-1 Germany, which was eliminated in a surprise. Brazil, Portugal, and Argentina didn't look sharp in the group stage, so I predict Belgium to advance to the final match. The bottom half of the bracket is more challenging to predict. Spain is 8th-ranked and seems to have a relatively easy path of advancement in the first two rounds (beating Russia and the winner of Croatia-Denmark). So, I predict a championship match between Belgium and Spain, with Belgium winning.
(2) Wednesday in Soccer World Cup: Four matches were played to close Groups F and E.
Group F: Mexico, thought to be safe, squeezed through, due to eliminated South Koreans sinking Germany.
- Sweden humiliated Mexico 3-0, putting it in danger of elimination with 6 points, but S. Korea intervened.
- In a most surprising result, South Korea beat Germany 2-0, the second goal scored in an empty net.
Group E: Costa Rica was out, with Brazil, Switzerland, and Serbia (4, 4, 3 points) all still in the running.
- Brazil prevailed over Serbia 2-0, thus advancing as the top team in Group E. [2-minutes highlights]
- Switzerland played to a 2-2 draw with Costa Rica to claim the group's second spot. [3-minute highlights]
(3) Thursday in Soccer World Cup: Four matches were played to close Groups H and G.
Group H: Poland was out, with Japan, Senegal, and Colombia (4, 4, 3 points) contending for top two spots.
- Poland played the spoiler by beating Japan 1-0 to make the records of Japan and Senegal dead even.*
- Colombia beat Senegal 1-0 on a header off a corner kick to advance as the top group team.
Group G: England and Belgium had already advanced; only next round's team match-ups were at stake.
- In the battle of eliminated teams, Tunisia was the favored side against Panama, and it won 2-1.
- Belgium was reluctant to press on after it took the lead 1-0, good enough for the top spot in Group G.**
[*Japan and Senegal were so even, that a little-known tie-breaking rule had to be applied. Both teams had 4 points in the group stage, both had scored 4 goals and conceded 4 goals. They had tied when they played each other. The "fair play" tie-breaking rule favored Japan, with its 4 yellow cards against Senegal's 6.]
[**Belgium and England played to determine the top team and second team in Group G. The two teams were dead even in the standings (6 points each, 8 goals for, 2 goals against). Much was at stake here. The top team would play Japan (FIFA rank 44), whereas the second team would face a much tougher Colombia (rank 13).]
(4) A Moore's Law for Packaging: This was the title of a talk yesterday afternoon by Subramanian S. Iyer (UCLA), whose research is focused on removing packaging barriers to exploiting the greater performance made possible by denser circuits (Moore's Law). Current packaging technology (chips placed on PC boards) wastes much of the chip-level performance gain, owing to narrower and slower links on the PC board compared with intra-chip connections. One solution is to replace the PC board with a silicon substrate (wafer) onto which dies of various kinds are fused through pressure and heat. [Photos]
(5) GRIT talk yesterday afternoon: Computer Science Professor William Wang spoke in the Groundbreaking Research / Innovative Technology lecture series, under the title "Artificial Intelligence: What's Next?" Professor Wang, who directs UCSB's Natural Language Processing Group, began by reviewing the stunning progress of AI over the past few decades, particularly in machine learning, natural-language processing, and computer vision. He then outlined his group's work at the intersection of AI and language that may lead to the emergence of empathetic conversational agents to understand and generate human sentences with rich emotions. Examples might include interpreting and writing Yelp reviews. In addition to his group's work with Emojis, Professor Wang referred to IBM's Debater as an example of human-like language skills. [Photos]

2018/06/27 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Wikipedia tables showing World Cup groups and how they were formed (1) How the World Cup 2018 groups were formed: According to Wikipedia, teams were divided into 4 pots in order of seeding (1-7, plus host; 8-15; 16-23; 24-31), with a group formed by drawing a random team from each pot. FIFA indicates that Group E was the strongest and Russia's Group A the weakest. Iran's group B was the third strongest.
(2) The coldest points on Earth's surface: The temperature of –93 degrees Celsius (–135 F) observed in several spots on the East Antarctic Plateau, is much lower than previously thought. The highest temperature ever recorded on Earth is 134 F or ~57 C (Death Valley, USA; July 10, 1913), making the temperature range nearly symmetric in Fahrenheit! The interval from lowest to highest is 150 C wide.
(3) A beautifully-made Apple commercial: It uses this touching song by manic-depressive artist Daniel Johnston. The video includes lyrics and Johnston's life story.
(4) Space Force, the sixth branch of the US military: The current five branches are Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. At one point in the past, the US did not have a separate Air Force. Rather, the Army created what was known as the Army Air Force (AAF) to take advantage of airborne vehicles for logistics and combat. As the importance of air transportation grew, AAF was separated from US Army to became USAF. Experts say that the same situation will inevitably happen to the Space Division of USAF, as more and more assets are placed in space, where they need protection from enemy aggression and mischief, not to mention the possibility of space-based combat capabilities. Creating US Space Force may be premature now, but, in the long run, it may be inevitable.
Wikipedia tables showing World Cup groups and how they were formed (5) Book review: Tartt, Donna, The Secret History: A Novel, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by the author, HarperAudio, 2007.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This first novel of Mississippi-born Donna Tartt is a Lieutenant-Columbo-style detective story, in which not the person committing the crime but his motive is a mystery. The murder occurs within the confines of an academically and socially isolated group of classics students, studying under the tutelage of a charismatic professor who is very picky about the students he admits. The students in this small group try to inject some excitement into their lives, but their neat schemes eventually unravel, turning them into a clique of out-of-touch, evil minds.
The protagonist is a young man from California who narrates the story as he experiences life at an elite Vermont college. Now, a woman author speaking on behalf of a man, or vice versa, isn't all that uncommon in books. However, it becomes a bit confusing when the author reads her own book, with her female voice describing in the first person the actions and feelings of a man. It took me a couple of hours of listening time before I began feeling comfortable with the reversed gender experience.
Woven into the main narrative about the murder and its aftermaths are discussions of nuances of ancient Greece and life in a small Vermont town. An enjoyable read/listen, despite the devious, unlikable characters!

2018/06/26 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Graphic illustrating Benford's Law for decimal numbers (1) Benford's Law: Consider a large collection of numbers from a real-world data set. We tend to assume that the digits in such a set of numbers are nearly uniformly distributed, but this intuition is way off in the case of the first or leading digit. Research has shown that the probability of the first digit being D is approximately log(1 + 1/D), where the log function is in base 10 for decimal data. So, the probability of the first digit being 1 is more than six times that of it being 9 (about 30% vs. less than 5%). An immediate corollary is that if you take numbers of a certain fixed width, say, in the interval [100, 999], nearly half of them will begin with 1 or 2 and thus will be relatively small. Benford's Law has been used for detecting data forgeries, be they in scientific research, political elections (e.g., Iran 2009), or in financial records (such as tax returns). Wikipedia has an excellent article on the topic. [Graph from:]
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of potential interest.
- Lady Liberty thinks we should all care! [Image]
- "It's encouraging that Sarah Sanders was judged not by her skin color but by her character content."
- Don't boo or harass them. Don't sink with them to the bottom. Let's restore civility, even if it's one-way.
- Our language shapes the way we think. [2-minute video clip from a TED talk]
- Persian poetry: A verse from classical Iranian poet Sa'di.
- Taking the World Cup too seriously: Egyptian commentator dies after his country loses to Saudi Arabia.
- Prepare for soccer withdrawal symptoms on Friday 6/29, between the group stage and the knockout round.
(3) Monday in Soccer World Cup: Four matches were played to close Groups A and B.
Group A: Both matches were meaningless, except for determining the next opponents of Russia and Uruguay.
- Uruguay, which led Russia 2-0 at halftime, prevailed 3-0 to become the top team of Group A.
- Going into halftime 1-1, Saudi Arabia scored seconds before the end of stoppage time to defeat Egypt 2-1.
Group B: Morocco was out, but the other teams were still in the running, with Iran's chances being slim.
- Portugal got lucky to survive Iran 1-1, scoring just before halftime, missing a PK, and giving up a PK goal.
- Playing evenly, Spain and Morocco were tied 1-1 at halftime and ended the match 2-2; Spain advances.
(4) Tuesday in Soccer World Cup: Four matches were played to close Groups C and D.
Group C: France is in and Peru is out; Australia has an outside chance of advancing, in an unlikely scenario.
- Satisfied with the status quo, France (top group spot) and Denmark (second) battled to a scoreless draw.
- The already-eliminated Peru crushed Australia's meager hopes of advancing by beating it 2-0.
Group D: Nigeria or Argentina will likely advance with Croatia. Unlikely: Iceland crushing both teams' hopes.
- Argentina led Nigeria 1-0 at halftime (on a beautiful goal by Messi) and won 2-1 to avoid elimination.
- After a scoreless first half, Croatia crushed Iceland's meager hopes of advancing by beating it 2-1.
(5) My partial bracket for World Cup 2018, with 8 of the teams in the round-of-16 already identified.
(6) Top 500 supercomputers in the world: After many years of domination by China, the US has reclaimed the topmost spot, but in terms of the number of computers in the top 500, China's lead has widened, now standing at 206 to 124.

2018/06/25 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Prominent Iranian women who wrote a letter to FIFA, asking that it seek a permanent end to the ban against women entering sports stadiums in Iran (1) Women's rights in Iran: Postings on Facebook about 18 prominent Iranian women asking FIFA to seek a permanent end to the ban against women entering sports stadiums in Iran, have garnered numerous scolding comments that suggest these distinguished women are the enemies of Iran and allies of imperialism, the Saudis, Israel, and others. My input to the overheated discussion follows.
From my viewpoint, any movement towards justice and any pressure applied to a dictatorial regime should be welcome by the entire opposition spectrum.
Unfortunately, there are two major forces dissing demands for reasonable reforms as stepping stones for broader changes, bringing to mind the aphorism, "Perfect is the enemy of good" (popularized by Voltaire):
(a) Supporters of the Islamic regime, who, in their zeal for self-preservation, hush any opposition under the pretense that the US, the Saudis, Israel, and other unnamed "enemies" will take advantage of open criticism.
(b) Some supporters of alternative, not completely specified but in their view "perfect," political system, who believe that Iran must collapse (militarily and economically), before it can be rebuilt according to their taste.
Resorting to universally accepted rights and pointing to illogical restrictions (women attending sporting events in Iran or driving cars in Saudi Arabia) provides the best hope for making any progress in the human and women's rights domains.
Such tiny steps are already quite dangerous, especially when taken by those living in Iran, as we read daily in the news coming from the country's arbitrary "justice" system.
The ongoing World Cup in Russia, being watched by many millions around the world, makes the timing of this action ideal for garnering attention to the plight of women in Iran.
(2) Book review: Kondo, Marie (translated by Cathy Hirano), The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, Ten Speed Press, 2014.
Cover image of Marie Kondo's 'The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing' [My three-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I read this book about half-way through, before becoming frustrated with its arbitrary rules and over-generalizations. Most everyone knows that clutter takes a toll on our peace of mind and productivity, but each of us has a slightly different way of dealing with the problem. Kondo suggests that effective decluttering requires that we get rid of extra stuff in one fell swoop and that gradual tidying up by getting rid of one item, say, per day is bound to fail. Yet, I have found such a gradual approach quite effective in my case, not just in reducing clutter but also in making a dent in piled-up tasks.
For example, when I accumulate a large number of titles on my books-to-read or book-reviews-to-write list, I resolve to take care of one item per a reasonable time period, such as one week or one month. I have found that making progress in reducing clutter or backlogs provides sufficient motivation to keep up. It's a pleasant feeling to see space open up or lists shrink, even if the clearing up or shrinkage is not total.
I am not convinced that someone with difficulty in tossing one item per day can achieve the vastly more challenging task of getting rid of a whole bunch of stuff at once. We tend to accumulate junk because items have sentimental or economic value. We keep our children's writings or artwork, because they help us remember or visualize them growing up. Those of us who are tinkerers or fixers, keep parts of broken gadgets in our garage because we think that someday they may be of use in replacing a part in another broken gadget. If this is our motivation (saving money or time in finding a replacement later), then we need organizing skills not decluttering skills.
Having expressed my reservations, I do think that Kondo's book might be useful for those who don't have their own ideas about how to declutter or where to start. Do read the book, if this applies to you, but be mindful that any general edict about doing a task in a particular way, with no viable alternative, is likely to be misguided.

2018/06/24 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The New Yorker's cover image, issue of July 2, 2018, shows immigrant children taking refuge with Lady Liberty (1) The New Yorker's cover image, issue of July 2, 2018, shows immigrant children taking refuge with Lady Liberty.
(2) Google cloud engineers refuse to work on a war-related government project: The refusal by the so-called "Group of Nine" may cost Google billions, but it's a welcome harbinger of socially responsible engineering.
(3) Prominent Iranian women ask FIFA to seek a permanent end to the ban on women entering sports stadiums in Iran.
(4) This man isn't really blind, is he? [Photo]
Gives a new meaning to seeing with your mind's eye! I have no idea who the man is and in what city/country the photo was taken.
(5) While Iranians are distracted by the prospects of soccer glory, the free-market rate for one US dollar in Iran has surpassed 8800 tomans, more than double the official rate of 4260 tomans.
(6) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Apple to release its AirPower wireless charger later this year: Prelude to removing the Lightning port?
- Trump thinks signing two pieces of paper has solved the NK nuclear threat and the immigration problem!
- Texas wants no stinking liberals! [Photo of roadside billboard]
- Certain genes may underlie several psychiatric conditions. [Eric Topol tweet]
- Iran's President Rouhani takes a cue from Donald Trump, attacking the media for criticizing his record.
- Sufi Mohammad Salas Babajani was executed in Iran, as the country's soccer team played in Russia.
(7) Saturday in Soccer World Cup: Three matches were played in Groups F and G.
- After leading 3-1 at halftime, Belgium defeated Tunisia 5-2 in an exciting match. [3-minute highlights]
- Mexico continued its good showing, edging past South Korea 2-1, after scoring its first goal on a PK.
- Germany avoided elimination in a thrilling 2-1 victory over Sweden, after falling behind in minute 32.
[In the margins of Germany's win: The Germans pulled off a lucky win, an obvious PK not called against them, playing one man down late in the match, and scoring deep into stoppage time.]
(8) Sunday in Soccer World Cup: Three matches were played in Groups G and H.
- Scoring on 2 PKs and a variety of styles on 4 more goals, England crushed Panama 6-1.
- Senegal took the lead after 11 minutes, with the two teams alternating in scoring, for a 2-2 draw
- The Polish defense resembled cheese, as Colombia sliced through it repeatedly, to win 3-0.
(9) Group standings in the 2018 World Cup: Each team has now played two matches, with the third match to be played in simultaneous pairs (e.g., Iran-Portugal at the exact same time as Spain-Morocco) over the next 4 days, to reduce the chances of team collusions, when the advancement of a team playing in one match depends on the performance of the other two teams in the group).
Monday (Groups A, B); Tuesday (Groups C, D); Wednesday (Groups F, E); Thursday (Groups H, G). Of each simultaneous pair of matches, one will be on Fox and the other on Fox Sports, at 7:00 AM and 11:00 AM PST.
Group A: Russia and Uruguay have advanced; Egypt and Saudi Arabia are eliminated; no surprise here.
Group B: Morocco is out. Iran will advance only if it beats Portugal, or draws, with Morocco beating Spain.
Group C: France is in; Peru is out; Australia has an outside chance of advancing if it beats Peru and gets help.
Group D: Croatia is in, with Nigeria (in better shape), Iceland, and Argentina all having a chance to advance.
Group E: Costa Rica is out, with Brazil, Switzerland, and Serbia all still in the running.
Group F: Mexico is in and South Korea is out. Germany (playing SK) and Sweden (v. Mexico) are dead even.
Group G: England and Belgium have advanced, while Tunisia and Panama are out; not much excitement here!
Group H: Poland is out, with Japan, Senegal, and Colombia all possible contenders.

2018/06/22 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Melania Trump visits the border: How clueless do you have to be to wear this jacket during a visit to children's detention centers? Santa Barbara Summer Solstice Festival and Parade Speaking of borders, 'Welcome to America': Time magazine's cover, issue of July 2, 2018 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Melania Trump visits the border: How clueless do you have to be to wear this jacket during a visit to children's detention centers? [Center] Santa Barbara Summer Solstice Festival and Parade. [Right] Speaking of borders, 'Welcome to America': Time magazine's cover, issue of July 2, 2018.
(2) Hollister Ave., west of Storke Rd.: My afternoon walk on Tuesday took me from Goleta's Camino Real Marketplace to a historic 1930s gas station, 2 miles to the west. There is a newly widened sidewalk/bike-path on the southern side of Hollister, which is very lightly used at this time. A new assisted-living facility caught my eyes, given the audiobook Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, about end-of-life care, that I listened to while walking (review coming soon). [My photos] [History of the Ellwood Gas Station]
(3) Important safety information regarding Trump tweets: Common side effects include headache, confusion, changes in mood, profanity-laced tirades, bitter family arguments, and, in some instances, projectile vomiting. [From: The New Yorker]
(4) My fall 2018 courses: I just finished updating the Web pages for a graduate-level ECE course and an interdisciplinary freshman seminar that I will be teaching, so as to set the course schedules in a way to accommodate three conference trips being planned. For those interested, here are the Web pages for my courses. [ECE 257A: Fault-Tolerant Computing] [INT 94TN: Puzzling Problems in Science and Technology]
Table of standings in a group of 4 teams (5) A soccer puzzle: Here is a table of standings in a group of 4 teams, each of which has played 2 of its 3 matches in a round-robin format. Can you determine the matches that have been played and their scores? If you like this puzzle, the 2018 World Cup group standings tables provide more examples for your enjoyment, assuming you don't already know the matches and scores.
(6) Friday in Soccer World Cup: Three matches were played in Groups D and E.
- Brazil got a scoreless scare from Costa Rica until minute 90 but ended up winning 2-0 in stoppage time.
- To Argentina's delight, Nigeria decisively beat Iceland 2-0. The disappointed Iceland team missed a PK.
- Serbia took an early lead, but the Swiss scored in minute 53 and again in stoppage time to prevail 2-1.
(7) Interesting facts about the World Cup: Did you know that World Cup's soccer ball is redesigned every 4 years? Adidas supplies the official ball for every World Cup, with this year's iteration dubbed the Telstar 18. Small changes in the design can create significant differences in how the ball responds during play. To find out how the new 2018 ball performs, scientists stuck it in a wind tunnel with a bunch of sensors, publishing their findings in the Journal Sports Engineering and Technology.

2018/06/21 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photo of my extended family taken on May 5, 2018 (1) Photo of my extended family, taken on my niece's wedding day, in Ventura, California, May 5, 2018.
(2) Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, the new owner of Los Angeles Times, who made $7.5 billion from selling two biopharmaceutical companies and owns 4.5% of the LA Lakers, has fighting fake news as his top priority.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Paul Manafort is the only manager who had nothing to do with what he was supposed to manage! [Meme]
- Colorado joins California in resisting Trump by requiring stricter car pollution standards.
- What do preachers with mansions and private jets have to say about detention camps for children? [Meme]
- New business for Trump, Inc.: Marketing cherry-picked passages from the Bible! [Image]
- Looking back at World Cup history: The politically-charged match between Iran and the US, 20 years ago.
- Artists building bridges in an increasingly divided and intolerant: Sistanagila concert poster.
- Cartoon of the day: What would Jesus do with children at the border? [Image]
- I couldn't walk home via the beach path yesterday, but I still stopped by for the soothing surf sounds.
(4) Wednesday in Soccer World Cup: Three matches played in Groups A and B. Uruguay and Russia advance.
- Portugal edged past Morocco 1-0 on a minute-5 Ronaldo goal, not scoring again, despite many chances.
- Saudi Arabia played much better than in its first match against Russia, but Uruguay held on to win 1-0.
- Playing defense for the first 45 minutes and much of the second half, Iran lost to Spain 0-1.
[On the Spain-Iran match: Spain, as a championship contender, was expected to win handily, but Iran went into a defensive shell which made scoring difficult. Spain's sole goal came on a lucky deflection. A goal by Iran was disallowed due to offside. Overall, Iran must consider Spain's 1-0 victory a satisfying result for its team.]
(5) Thursday in Soccer World Cup: Three matches were played in Groups C and D.
- In the first match, Denmark took the lead and Australia equalized 1-1 with a PK. [2-minute highlights]
- France edged past Peru, bringing to 10 the inordinately large number of 1-0 matches in this tournament.
- Croatia humiliated Argentina 3-0, scoring early in the second half and twice late in the match.
[Croatia's first goal was a gift from the Argentine goalie. Argentina's Lionel Messi continued to struggle.]
(6) Happy summer and longest day of the year: We have just entered summer, which means that today is the longest day of the year. Iranians celebrate the beginning of spring (Norooz), fall (Mehregan), and winter (Shab-e Yalda, the longest night of the year), but so far as I know, there is no corresponding celebration for the beginning of summer and the longest day of the year. Let's celebrate anyway.
(7) Final thought for the day: "Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts." ~ Paramahansa Yogananda

2018/06/19 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Sunset with beach palms Sunset at Niagara Falls Sunset with fall foliage (1) Earth's beautiful nature: Photos of sunset with beach palms, at Niagara Falls, and with fall foliage.
(2) Quote of the day: "I wonder how all those who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, the melancholia, the panic fear which is inherent in the human condition." ~ Graham Greene
(3) Sometimes a song's beauty does not register until you hear and see it played by a big orchestra: "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" theme music, composed by Ennio Morricone. [6-minute video]
(4) The silver lining of Trump's presidency: Morally repulsive politicians, mostly men, have held power for a long time. Only the extreme repulsiveness of Trump could have mobilized so many women to run for office and so many Americans becoming open to voting for them.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- The millionaire sponsor of Brexit held previously undisclosed meetings with Russia's Ambassador to the UK.
- Persian verses by Sa'eb Tabrizi: A couple of days late, but still worth sharing in honor of Fathers' Day.
- "A child across the border is no less worthy of love and compassion than my own child." ~ Barack Obama
- "Funny, he wasn't citing Romans to obey government when the black guy was POTUS." ~ John Fugelsang
- Based on a study of Einstein's diaries, a new book shockingly accuses him of racism and xenophobia.
- The world according to Trump: Friend or national security threat? [Cartoon]
- Diverse musical styles: Cat Stevens sings "Wild World" in concert, 1971; Kurdish music from Iran.
(6) Monday in Soccer World Cup: Three matches played in Groups F and G.
- Scoring on a PK, a dominant Swedish team edged past South Korea 1-0. [2-minute highlights] `
- A finely-tuned Belgian team spoiled Panama's World Cup debut 3-0. [3-minute highlights]
- Tunisia thought it had pulled an upset with the score tied after 90+ minutes, but England prevailed 2-1.
(7) Tuesday in Soccer World Cup: Three matches were played in Groups H and A, in what is turning out to be "the World Cup of upsets"! Every team has played one match, with Russia and Egypt completing their second.
- Scoring first on a PK, Japan pulled off an upset, beating Colombia 2-1. [2-minute highlights]
- Senegal dominated the match, beating Poland 2-1 in the second upset of the day. [2-minute highlights]
- Egypt's luck ran out, when it deflected a harmless ball into its own goal. Russia then took over to win 3-1.
[In the margins: Senegal's second goal was controversial, as the referee waved in a previously-injured player, while the game was being played. The said player raced downfield uncontested from the sideline, beating a defensive player and the goalie to a long ball, and scoring the goal. Russia advances to the knockout round. It's still a long way to go in the 2018 World Cup, but I have already broken my record of watching Fox TV!]
(8) Soccer, the beautiful sport with an ugly side: Where there is lots of money, there is corruption. In recent years, nearly 50 FIFA officials, going all the way to the top, have been indicted on bribery charges, including illegal acts connected with awarding the 2018 tournament to Russia. Thumbing his nose at investigators, Putin invited Sep Blatter, the ousted and censured former FIFA President, to attend the games in Russia, and he accepted! [Source: Time magazine, issue of June 25, 2018]

2018/06/17 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Colorful abacaus I received today as a Fathers' Day gift (1) Numbers and their place in nature: In a previous post, I indicated that natural numbers are, well, "natural"! In other words, the numbers 1, 2, 3, ... have a place in nature (0 is sometimes included among natural numbers), independent of any understanding of them. A bird may not know the abstractions 2 and 3, but it does recognize the difference between having 2 eggs or 3 eggs in its nest (such as when one egg goes missing). A natural number, zero included, correspond to the size (cardinality) of sets or collections of objects. The notion of addition of natural numbers arises naturally from putting sets together, as a set of 2 boys "plus" a set of 3 girls, together making a set of 5 children. There are infinitely many natural numbers.
The set of integers consists of natural numbers and their additive inverses. When we write the abstract equality 5 + (–5) = 0, we are saying that if you put five things into a collection and then take 5 things out, nothing will be left. In a similar vain, if you borrow 5 eggs from me and then return 5 eggs the next day, you have paid your debt and owe nothing. So, negative integers appear to be just as natural as natural numbers, also known as positive integers.
Next come rational numbers of the form p/q, numbers that are ratios of a natural number p to a non-zero natural number q. Examples include 1/3, 2/7, and 9/11. Let us first focus on a special class of rational numbers called unit fractions, with p = 1. Just as negative integers are additive inverses of natural numbers, unit fractions are multiplicative inverses of natural numbers. If natural numbers exist, then unit fractions also exist. If 5 apples constitute a set of apples, then one of those apples is 1/5 of that set. Unit fractions are easier to comprehend and deal with than arbitrary fractions. This is why ancient Egyptians dealt exclusively with unit fractions (the only exception being 2/3, which had its own hieroglyph). Even today, odds or likelihoods are often expressed as unit fractions (1 in 3 or 1 in 7) for ease of comprehension and visualization.
An arbitrary fraction can always be written as the sum of unit fractions, such as 8/15 = 1/3 + 1/5. The physical interpretation of 8/15 can be said to be 1/3 plus 1/5 of a set of 15 apples, say. In case you are curious, the decomposition of a fraction into unit fractions is not unique (e.g., 3/7 = 1/4 + 1/7 + 1/28 = 1/3 + 1/11 + 1/231 = 1/6 + 1/7 + 1/14 + 1/21), and there are various ways of deriving a set of unit fractions that add up to p/q. It is well-known that rational numbers are countably infinite, meaning that they can be placed in one-to-one correspondence with natural numbers.
The class of real numbers includes all rational numbers, plus other numbers referred to as irrationals (e.g., pi or square-root of 2). The set of real numbers is also infinite, but this uncountable infinite set is much larger than the countable set of rational numbers. So, almost all real numbers are irrational.
Do irrational numbers exist in nature?
The question of whether irrational numbers exist in nature relates to whether continuity is natural. If everything in nature is discrete, then nothing continuous exists. In that case, what we deem to be continuous, such as an infinitely divisible length, is really an abstraction of highly precise discrete quantities. If space-time is continuous, then we can talk about a triangle with two sides of exact length 1.0 and a 90-degree angle between the two. The third side of this triangle will be exactly of length square-root of 2, an irrational number. Similarly, if we construct a perfect circle with the exact diameter of 1.0, its perimeter will be pi. So, it appears to me that irrational numbers exist in nature if and only if space-time is continuous, which means that arbitrarily precise length and time measurements are possible. Because the latter question is as yet unresolved, we cannot make progress in determining the reality or naturalness of irrational numbers.
In fact, the problem is somewhat more complicated. Most physicists have accepted Einstein's suggestion that space and time are of the same nature, so they are either both continuous or both discrete. There are exceptions to this view, however. It could be that we have discrete space and continuous time, or vice versa, in which case some reframing of current physics theories may become necessary.
[Reference on mathematical platonism] [Reference on space/time continuity]
[Note: The image atop this note is a photo of part of an abacus I received among my Fathers' Day gifts today.]
(2) Bittersweet end of the academic year: My early afternoon walk on Saturday took me to the edge of UCSB campus, where graduation ceremonies were held on a large lawn, next to the campus lagoon. College of Engineering had a separate graduation ceremony today. I arrived there between two ceremonies, as one group was leaving and another group of graduates was arriving with family members in tow, all smiles. The streets of Isla Vista were jam-packed with cars, including trucks, moving vans, and sedans filled to the brim with personal belongings. Streets and sidewalks were littered with discarded mattresses, furniture, and other items, attracting scavengers with trucks or push-carts, loading and taking away usable/salvageable items, as soon as they appeared on the sidewalk. [Photos]
(3) Saturday in Soccer World Cup: Four matches were played in Groups C and D. [Highlights videos in links]
- France beat Australia 2-1, the first goal of each team coming on a PK. [2-minute highlights]
- Argentina and Iceland played to a 1-1 draw, thanks to Iceland goalie's heroic saves, including a Messi PK.
- Peru controlled much of the game and took more shots (including a missed PK), but Denmark won 1-0.
- Croatia beat Nigeria 2-0 in a wide-open game, their second goal coming on a PK.
(4) Sunday in Soccer World Cup: Three matches in Groups E and F, all with unexpected outcomes.
- Serbia stunned Costa Rica 1-0 with a minute-64 long-distance goal on a free kick. [2-minute highlights]
- Mexico overcame Germany 1-0, for the first time in 30 years. [4-minute highlights and commentary]
- Brazil and Switzerland played to a 1-1 draw, in part due to the Swiss goalie's heroics. [3-minute highlights]

2018/06/15 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The colors of the four seasons (1) Putting the spring quarter 2018 behind: I have been changing my Facebook cover photos at the end of each academic quarter to something appropriate for the new season. After finishing my course-related tasks and reporting the grades to the registrar's office, instead of changing my Facebook cover photo to something about the forthcoming summer season, I replaced it with a piece of art about all seasons, beginning with summer on the left. I will name the work and the artist, once I locate the info.
(2) [Book introduction] Why? What Makes Us Curious: In this wonderful book (Simon & Schuster, 2017), Mario Livio, a best-selling author of science texts, probes the question of human curiosity, our "engine of discovery," via the stories of two icons of curiosity and discovery: artist Leonardo da Vinci and physicist Richard Feynman.
(3) Women in Post-Revolutionary Iran: The Pioneers of Gender Justice, Agents of Social Transformation, and the Prospect for the Future (All-day event in Mountain View, CA, Saturday, June 23, 2018) [Poster]
(4) The Women's Movement: From the 'Constitutional Revolution' to the 'Girls of the Revolution Street' (Talk by Dr. Nayereh Tohidi at the June General Meeting of the Association of Iranian-American Professionals of San Diego, Wednesday, June 27, 2018, 6:00 PM, San Diego area) [Announcement]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Donald Trump salutes North Korean general in lavishly produced Kim Jong Un propaganda film.
- World Cup's Days 1-2: Russia 5-0 Saudi Arabia; Uruguay 1-0 Egypt; Iran 1-0 Morocco; Portugal 3-3 Spain.
- Quote of the day: "Those who wish to sing always find a song." ~ Swedish proverb
- On Youth and age: "Youth is the gift of nature, but age is a work of art." ~ Polish poet Stanislaw Jerzy Lec
(6) In the rearview mirror: "In their 1920 program, the Nazis proclaimed that 'members of foreign nations (noncitizens) are to be expelled from Germany.' Next would come autarky: Germans would conquer the territory they needed to be self-sufficient, and then create their own economy in isolation from that of the rest of the world. As Goebbels put it, 'We want to build a wall, a protective wall.' Hitler maintained that the vicissitudes of globalization were not the result of economic forces but of a Jewish international conspiracy." ~ From: The Death of Democracy
(7) On today's Iran-Morocco Group-B World Cup match: Iran escaped from the first half against Morocco 0-0, after playing disorganized defense for nearly 30 minutes. A draw would have been bad for both teams, so they woke up late in the match, creating more opportunities. Iran forced an own goal 4 minutes into extra time to defeat Morocco 1-0! [Photos: Batch 1; Batch 2]
(8) On today's Portugal-Spain Group-B World Cup match: A TV announcer indicated right before the match that the trailers and ads were over and real soccer was about to begin! Portugal scored in the 4th minute on a PK. Spain equalized in the 24th minute. Portugal scored in the 44th minute to lead 2-1 at halftime. Spain equalized on a free kick in the 55th minute. A wonderful 58th-minute distance shot made it 3-2 Spain! Ronaldo completed a hat trick on a masterful free kick, just before the final whistle to make the tie the score at 3-3. [Photos]
(9) World Cup analysis and weekend schedule: Right now, Iran is in top spot of World Cup's Group B with 3 points, but today's draw between Portugal and Spain actually hurt Iran's chances of advancing. If both Portugal and Spain beat Iran, they will have 4+ points each (regardless of how Morocco does in its remaining two matches) and Iran will be eliminated. A draw by Iran will keep advancement chances alive, at least in theory (goal differential is unlikely to favor Iran). Here are World Cup matches for the weekend; all times US EDT.

2018/06/14 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Artist at work in Isfahan's bazaar, Iran Intersection of Church and State Streets FIFA World Cup 2018 square logo with soccer ball (1) Some interesting images: [Left] Artist at work in Isfahan's bazaar, Iran. [Center] What separation between church and state? Trump's economic adviser says there is a special place in hell for Justin Trudeau. [Right] Complete Soccer World Cup TV schedule (all times US Eastern), Friday, June 15, to Sunday, July 15, 2018.
(2) In his news conference, Trump said that North Korea has beautiful beaches and some great-looking condos can be built there. Guess who aspires to do the building after the end of his presidency?
(3) Iranian lawyer and human-rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh has been arrested again: She previously spent years in prison, yet after her release, she continued her courageous efforts to speak up for justice, most recently, in the form of defending women prosecuted for opposing Iran's mandatory hijab law. Interestingly, she has been told that she will serve a 5-year jail term, right after her arrest!
(4) Imagine a country with no Internet, only one TV channel, government-controlled news, a land where making unauthorized international phone calls is punishable by execution. The problem of North Korean people isn't that they don't have luxury condos and hotels on their beautiful beaches. The people there are suffering from oppression, poverty, hunger, and lack of human dignity. Congratulations, America, for legitimizing the regime responsible for these conditions!
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Soccer World Cup 2026 will be hosted jointly by Canada, USA, and Mexico.
- After many years, the US is again leading in the race to build the world's most powerful supercomputer.
- Proposal to split California into three states, each with a population of 12-14 million, will be put to vote.
- Hunger leads to anger: Oxford Dictionary now recognizes the word "hanger" for anger caused by hunger.
- Quote of the day: "You fall in love with people's minds." ~ Anais Nin, Henry and June
- A family affair: Salar Aghili, his wife, and their son perform the Persian song "Bahar-e Delneshin."
(6) University of Washington researchers have developed a system that, once trained on sample soccer videos, converts a 2D video version of a match to realistic 3D version played right in front of you with a VR headset.

Cover image for Paul Hoffman's 'The Man Who Loved Only Numbers' 2018/06/13 (Wednesday): Book review: Hoffman, Paul, The Man Who Loved Only Numbers: The Story of Paul Erdos and the Search for Mathematical Truth, Hachette, 1999. [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Hoffman tells the story of Paul Erdos [1913-1996] (pronounced "air-dish"), arguably the most brilliant mathematician of all time. He was certainly the most prolific, in terms of both the number of papers published (~1500) and the range of topics he covered. This isn't just a book about Erdos. Numerous mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers appear across the pages, as their contributions are linked to those of Erdos or are used to make various points about mathematics and its beauty and significance. Sixteen pages of black-and-white photos, inserted between pages 148 and 149, depict Erdos and others.
The story of Erdos' life and his mathematical contributions is intertwined with horror stories from World War II. Erdos spent time with many giants of mathematics and physics during a very special era of scientific interactions. Erdos never had a girlfriend; hence the title of this book. He put his lack of romantic interests in this way: "The privilege of pleasure in dealing with women has not been given to me." Interestingly, a few women were more than happy to be around him; one drove him around for a long time, before getting tired of the routine. In all cases, the relationships remained Platonic.
Erdos traveled constantly, living out of a bag, and producing beautiful mathematical results, often collaboratively. His trail included the entire continent of Europe and, when he was not banned from entering the US during the McCarthy era and for some years after that, many parts of the US. Erdos is said to have been responsible for turning mathematics into a social activity.
Paul Erdos as a boy, in middle age, and as an old man A colleague of Erdos composed the following limerick about him:
A conjecture both deep and profound
Is whether the circle is round
In a paper of Erdos
Written in Kurdish
A counterexample is found
Erdos had so many co-authors that he is connected to most mathematicians by a few hops in the co-authorship network (two individuals are linked in the network if they published a paper together). The distance of an individual to Erdos in this network is known as his or her "Erdos Number." A small Erdos number is worn as a badge of honor! There are 485 lucky individuals with an Erdos number of 1 (his co-authors). Erdos sent out some 1500 letters per year. They mostly discussed mathematics. A typical letter of his began, "I am in Australia. Tomorrow I leave for Hungary. Let k be the largest integer ..." or "Dear Hua, Let p be an odd prime ..." Once during a museum visit, he sat down at a garden, doing math.
Erdos loved, and was good at, constructing succinct, insightful arguments, never accepting page after page of equations as a legitimate proof. In functional analysis, which Erdos knew little about, he casually constructed a two-line solution for a problem that had needed 30 pages. He had a knack for working on disperate problems simultaneously, like a chess grandmaster who goes around the room and plays against multiple opponents. A favorite topic for Erdos was Ramsey Theory, which deals with problems of the following kind: How many guests do we need (at least) at a party so that there are 3 people among them who know each other or 3 people who are mutual strangers?
Erdos was fond of saying, "A mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems." Once, Erdos joked that he was 2.5 billion years old, because during his childhood, the Earth was said to be 2 billion years old, whereas now its age is given as 4.5 billion years! Erdos quoted his friend, mathematician Stanislaw Ulam: "The first sign of senility is that a man forgets his theorems, the second sign is that he forgets to zip up, the third sign is that he forgets to zip down" [p. 251].
No biography of Erdos or its review would be complete without reference to actual mathematical problems. Here is a recreational math problem of the kind that attracted Erdos. When Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run, breaking Babe Ruth's record of 714, mathematicians took delight in some unusual properties of the pair (715, 714). For one thing, the product of 715 and 714 equals the product of the first 7 prime numbers. Also, the sum of the prime factors of 715 (5, 11, 13) equals the sum of the prime factors of 714 (2, 3, 7, 17), prompting the designation "Ruth-Aaron pair" for consecutive integers having this property. When Carl Pomerance conjectured, with no inkling of how to prove it, that there are infinitely many Ruth-Aaron pairs, Erdos was quick to come up with a proof (pp. 180-181). This chance contact developed into 21 co-authored papers.
No one is working on Ruth-Aaron pairs any more, but "The line between recreational mathematics and serious number theory is often fuzzy" [p. 204]. As observed by John Tierney, "This is the remarkable paradox of mathematics. No matter how determinedly its practitioners ignore the world, they consistently produce the best tools for understanding it. ... [For example] Bernhard Riemann ... replaces Euclid's plane with a bizarre abstraction called curved space, and then, 60 years later, Einstein announces that this is the shape of the universe."
Here is another interesting example from the book. Ancient Egyptians were very fond of unit fractions, having 1 as the numerator (e.g., 1/3, 1/10, 1/413) and tried to deal with them exclusively. The only exception was 2/3, which had its own hieroglyph. Every fraction is representable as the sum of a set of unit fractions. For example, 7/11 = 1/2 + 1/8 + 1/88 and 55/84 = 1/2 + 1/7 + 1/84. Fibonacci used a greedy process to derive a set of unit fractions, whose sum equaled a given fraction. First choose the largest unit fraction 1/m that is smaller than the given fraction p/q. Compute the remainder p/q – 1/m and repeat the process. The greedy process does not necessarily lead to a "best" representation, which can be defined in a variety of ways (smallest number of unit fractions, minimal value for the largest denominator, minimal sum for the denominators, and so on). Here is an example with multiple representations: 3/7 = 1/4 + 1/7 + 1/28 = 1/3 + 1/11 + 1/231 = 1/6 + 1/7 + 1/14 + 1/21.
Hundreds of thousands of theorems are proven each year, and it is difficult to judge which ones will end up being important. Many of these theorems find a single reader or a handful of readers, but if the number of people interested in a particular area or problem reaches 100, then perhaps that area/problem is important. The list of problems that Erdos tackled himself or helped others solve is virtually endless. One example is the fact that there is always a prime between n and 2n. This constitutes one of the ways of proving that there are infinitely many primes (a fact first proven by Euclid). And Erdos wasn't well-read only in mathematics. Once, a speaker scheduled to give a talk did not show up. Erdos got up and gave a lecture about recent discoveries about the color vision of bees, with no preparation or notes.
As brilliant as Erdos was, his intuition occasionally led him astray. A famous example is his reaction to the Monty Hall problem. He got into a dispute with Marilyn vos Savant, whose column in Parade magazine popularized the problem. It took Erdos a long time to come to accept that if a contestant on a game show with three closed doors, behind one of which is a grand prize, chooses a door and is then shown behind one of the other two doors which contains no prize, switching from the chosen door to the other remaining door will double his/her chances of winning the prize.
Anyone with some interest in mathematics should absolutely read this book. I provided examples of the eccentricities and genius of Erdos in my review, but there are many more examples in this remarkable book.
[End note: Thanks to my daughter Sepideh for recommending this book to me and for loaning me her copy.]

2018/06/12 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon portrait of Donald Trump Political chess game between US and North Korea Cartoon portrait of Kim Jong Un (1) A high-stakes political chess game, being played in Singapore between US and North Korea leaders.
(2) Mind-reading Siri and Alexa: Student researchers at MIT's Media Lab have designed a headset that detects subvocalization (the process that triggers neuromuscular signals when we read to ourselves, e.g.) to pick up our thoughts through small muscle movements.
(3) Robotic bees on Mars: A future NASA Mars mission may include tiny flying robots the size of bumblebees, which are equipped with cameras, sensors, and wireless communication capabilities. Flying in swarms, the robots can help create 3D maps to help a rover navigate the rugged Martian terrain.
(4) New algorithm can spot fake photos, before they go viral: UC Berkeley and CMU researchers have developed a system that can detect inconsistencies in doctored images. Each imaging device has unique features that manifest themselves across entire images. By teaching an algorithm to distinguish imagery from different sources, researchers hope to be able to identify images that mix elements from more than one source.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Thoughts and prayers: Gunman kills four child hostages and himself in Florida standoff.
- Freudian slip: Fox News host refers to the Singapore summit as meeting of two dictators!
- Donald Trump says Kim Jong Un has accepted invitation to visit him at the White House.
- Persian poetry: A playful love poem by the Azeri poet Mohammad Hossein Shahriar. [Facebook post]
Block against a wall (6) Neat physics problem from Wired magazine: A 1-kg block is pressed against a vertical wall and is pushed an an angle theta, just hard enough to stay in place. The coefficient of friction between the block and the wall is 0.5. What is the required force F? Is there an optimum value for the angle theta that minimizes the required force?
(7) Ivanka Trump's "Chinese proverb" backfires: In support of her father's summit with Kim Jong Un, Ivanka tweeted, "Those who say it can not be done, should not interrupt those doing it." The misplaced comma aside, the tweet has two main problems. First, it isn't a Chinese proverb, but an example of Eastern "wisdom" manufactured by Westerners. Reactions from actual Asians were wide-ranging, including the following tweets:
- "This is not even remotely an actual Chinese proverb." - Chinese proverb
- "Confucius say ... don't use Chinese proverbs as intellectual and moral veneer."
- "You can call any old shit a Chinese proverb on the Internet." - Confucius
More importantly, even though the statement sounds profound at first, further reflection reveals it to be misguided. Suppose the doer is a man running toward the rim of the Grand Canyon, with the aim of jumping to the other side. An observer, who thinks the Canyon is too wide for this stunt to succeed, has the absolute moral obligation to interrupt him, even if it requires tackling him to the ground.

2018/06/11 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Geometric interpretation of square-root of 2 (1) Several friends had engaged in a discussion of numbers and whether they always existed in nature, before we humans discovered them, or whether they are made up by us. Here is what I contributed to the discussion.
On the reality of irrational numbers: Whether numbers are "real" or figments of our imagination is a deep philosophical discussion. There is near-unanimous agreement that integers have always been there, independent of human discovery and understanding. Mathematician Leopold Kronecker famously said: "God made the integers; all else is the work of man." In a deeper sense, it doesn't really matter whether pi or square-root of 2 is real or just imagined. Mathematicians can't be bothered with this question, because what they do is independent of the "realness" of numbers.
I claim that square-root of 2 is just as real as the integer 2. Here is my reasoning. Let's begin by accepting the notion of time being unidirectional (the arrow of time) and measurable. The unidirectionality of time is a debatable assumption, but we have to start somewhere. The measurability is less of a problem, because time and distance-traveled are interchangeable in the case of uniform motion. It makes perfect sense to talk about one distance or one time-interval being twice as long as another one.
Now, imagine an ant crawling for 1 minute at a constant speed of 1 meter/minute along a straight line from point A to point B, turning left by 90 degrees, and moving from B to C along a straight line in 1 minute. Travel distance and travel time from A to C by this ant are both twice as long as those for the first leg of the trip. A second ant, also crawling at 1 meter/minute, goes straight from A to C. The time taken by the second ant and the distance it travels are both shorter by a factor of square-root of 2.
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Former basketball player Dennis Rodman has traveled to Singapore for the US-NK nuclear summit.
- Political puzzle: Of these two photos of Trump, which one is with a US friend and which one with a foe?
- Trump officials begin the process of cleaning up the mess he created at the G-7 summit in Canada.
- It seems that "America First" is turning into "America Alone"!
- In the top positions of Spain's new government, women outnumber men nearly 2 to 1.
- Newspapers around the world react to Trump's embarrassing behavior at the G-7 summit in Canada.
- Persian poetry: A couple of verses from Sanaa'ee Ghaznavi. [Persian verses]
- On a stroll in my mom's condo complex, with family members: The fish in the pond are up to 50 years old.
(3) Speakerless car audio system: Based on the same properties as string instruments, Continental's Ac2ated system converts vibrations from a car's interior components into high-quality sounds. The back windshield, e.g., becomes a subwoofer, the A-pillar posts become tweeters, and so on. An expensive car audio system can weigh 20 lbs or more, whereas the new system registers at just 2 lbs.
(4) Perfection isn't always desirable: ClearMotion, a Boston start-up, has created a suspension system that is so perfect that it has to be toned down a bit to give the driver a feel for the road and brakes. Various sensors predict when the car is about to go over a bump, dip, or hole and quickly compensate for it, giving a very smooth ride. The toning down is needed with real drivers, but where self-driving cars are involved, the absolute smooth ride can be maintained.

Images from UCLA's Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran, Sunday, June 10, 2018 2018/06/10 (Sunday): UCLA Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran: Today's program (121 Dodd Hall, 4:00-7:00 PM) consisted of a screening of Tahmineh Milani's film "Untaken Paths" (or "Mali and Her Untaken Paths"), focusing on domestic violence, followed by a panel discussion, during which, moderator Dr. Nayereh Tohidi (shown on the right in the photo) provided a post-screening intro, followed by position statements from (in order from right to left) Dr. Nelly Farnoody-Zahiri, Abbas Hadjian, and Partow Nooriala. Let me include some links before reporting on the film and the ensuing discussion.
- Official trailer [1-minute video]
- Voice of America story about the film [5-minute video]
- The full film [106-minute video]
Dr. Tohidi introduced the panel, indicating that they were chosen to represent the viewpoints of a psychologist/family-counselor, an attorney who is familiar with both Iranian and US family laws, and an author/poet/film-critic. She also offered some concluding remarks at the end of the Q&A period, filling, in essence, the shoes of Ms. Milani, who wasn't present to respond to a number of criticisms of her film. After being banned from the Fajr Film Festival in Iran, Milani's film eventually received a screening permit and became commercially successful.
Dr. Farnoody-Zahiri commented on the cycle of violence, which was also evident in this film, because the abusive husband, Sia, was himself abused as a child, and the importance of teaching children how to deal with an abusive environment as part of school curricula. She faulted Ms. Milani for using a man to be Mali's contact point over the crisis hotline (what in an Iranian law being considered is referred to as "safe house"; more on this later). She stressed the importance of women banding together to provide support and problem-solving in case of abuse. This type of "sisterhood" was evident in several scenes of the film, including when two or more women came together in hospital or emergency-room settings. She raised the need for analyzing and dealing with the root causes of violence, because, ironically, sometimes even the abuser does not know what made him snap. Dr. Farnoody-Zahiri recommended two pertinent books in the course of her remarks: The Yes Brain and The State of Affairs.
Mr. Hadjian began by indicating that the "safe house" concept was first introduced in Afghanistan about a decade ago, but the law was shelved by the Afghan parliament in 2013. In 2012, Iran began working on an extended version of the idea, which is now said to be ready for submission to the Majlis. He indicated that the Iranian law has weaknesses in that, unlike California law, it does not say anything about the possibility of interventions and reconciliation between the couple. A big part of the problem is that Iran's family law is a century old, with hardly any updates through three political regimes, rise of the country's literacy rate to 97%, and a tenfold increase in population. The film depicts families that either no longer exist in Iran or are quite rare. Modern Iranian men and women view the film's depictions as highly exaggerated.
Ms. Nooriala read her written review of the film, indicating that whereas she admires Ms. Milani's courage in making such a film in a society where criticism of patriarchy and "honor" crimes isn't welcome, her film was cinematically weak. There were too many repeated scenes of violence (albeit, mostly filmed from behind a closed door, given the ban on male and female actors touching each other in Iran, which is also a problem in depicting love and tenderness, and, additionally, it causes awkward scenes, such as a woman wearing a headscarf, even when she is alone in her bedroom) and not enough attention to other elements of the story, such as the roles of enabling or disengaged family members. She indicated that Ms. Milani's "Two Women" was of higher quality, even though it was made many years ago.
[Note on the reaction to Milani's film by government authorities in Iran (added on Wednesday, June 13, 2018): As context for the UCLA screening and panel discussion, it is instructive to consider how the film has been suppressed in Iran, through excluding all advertising for it on the state TV and publication of critical reviews in regime's mouthpieces, including the hardliners-controlled Kayhan daily.
Voice of America story (3-minute video); Panel discussion with the director (37-minute video)]
[End note: I'd be happy to make corrections in the facts cited or any inadvertent misrepresentation of the panelists' views, if they are kind enough to let me know. I may also make corrections/refinements of my own.]

2018/06/09 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) Book review: Pirzad, Zoya, I'll Turn off the Lights (in Persian), Nashr-e Markaz, 2002. (ISBN: 978-964-305-656-8) [My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Cover image of Zoya Pirzad's 'I'll Turn off the Lights This acclaimed book was recommended and loaned to me by my sister. As in Pirzad's later novel, We'll Get Used to It (see my review), the writing consists of short, colloquial sentences. The Lights is better-written than Get Used, yet following the narrative, which comes in fits and starts, wasn't easy for me. I guess this is the way people talk, yet one expects a novelist to do more than just string together short, superficial sentences.
This is a novel with realistic characters for its setting, although the author warns us at the outset that she has taken some liberties in shaping the locales where events happen. There is much to learn from this book about the lifestyles of the Armenian minority in Iran and the more or less Westernized oil city of Abadan in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, as it was before the Islamic Revolution and during the subsequent war with Iraq.
The story is told from the vantage point of Claris, a young Armenian woman living with her husband Artush and three kids in Abadan of the 1960s. Their residence is part of the housing development where National Iranian Oil Company's employees live. The family's drab and relatively peaceful existence is disturbed when new neighbors move in.
Claris, whose Latin-based name means "fame, most famous, most bright," plays the role of a standard-issue, selfless, devoted housewife, but, deep down, she craves much more. She reads books and has a secret crush on a family friend, Emil, who visits from time to time. As a married woman in a traditional society, Claris keeps this taboo attraction under wraps, not mustering the courage to admit it even to herself. She thinks about this forbidden love nightly, for a few moments, as she gets ready to go to bed and announces that she will turn off the lights.
Claris craves attention, an amenity that was in short supply for Iranian women living many decades ago. Artush and others bring home guests unannounced and Claris is expected to feed and pamper them. Once, she rebels and in answer to her husband's "What's for dinner?" question, replies "Nothing!" and suggests that they order food from the Annex (pp. 163-164). However, by and large, she plays the role of an obedient wife, curbing her rebellion and keeping illicit thoughts to herself.
As I wrote in my review of Get Used, I am attracted to the works of Iranian women in view of their out-size influence on the political and rights movements in Iran and the attendant perspectives they bring to the ills of a backward, patriarchal society. Iranian women authors deserve to be read and heard, as they offer their diverse and compelling narratives about women's predicaments and their struggle for independence and justice.
Examples of unit fractions (2) Math puzzle: Ancient Egyptians were very fond of unit fractions, having 1 as the numerator (e.g., 1/3, 1/10, 1/413) and tried to deal with them exclusively. The only exception was 2/3, which had its own hieroglyph. Show that 7/11 and 55/84 can each be written as the sum of 3 unit fractions. Is every fraction representable as the sum of two or more distinct unit fractions?
(3) Drone light show: Time magazine created the cover of its June 11, 2018, issue with help from Intel's Drone Light Show team, which used 958 drones to display this pattern with a precise shade of red in Folsom, California, on May 2. Intel is marking its 50th anniversary this year.
(4) A drone captures the stark contrast between a shack city and a middle-class suburb on opposite sides of a road in Johannesburg, the worst example of inequality, according to the World Bank. [Photo: Time magazine]

2018/06/08 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover (1) New evidence of extraterrestrial life: The nuclear-powered, SUV-size Curiosity Rover, which has been exploring the surface of Mars since 2012, has detected signs of ancient carbon compounds on the red planet. Combined with the earlier detection of methane in the current Martian atmosphere, the new findings offer the strongest evidence yet of extraterrestrial life.
(2) UC Santa Barbara basketball player Drew Edelman achieves top GPA among athletes, completes requirements for a master's degree in education, and lands pro contract to play in Israel.
(3) The end of the academic year is such a bitter-sweet thing. Yes, summer is on its way and we will have more time for research and travel, but the campus will not be as alive with seminars and cultural events. [Image]
(4) UCSB Computer Engineering Program's senior capstone project day: Here are three sample projects.
- SPOT (sponsor NASA), a device that helps astronauts path-find on unknown terrain without an increase in cognitive load. Team members: Saurabh Gupta, Bryan Lavin-Parmenter, Neil O'Bryan, Brandon Pon
- Deep Vision (sponsor NVIDIA), identifying and tracking targets, such as people and dogs, in real time by analyzing drone video. Team members: Chenghao Jiang, Terry Xie, Charlie Xu, Jenny Zheng
- Wall-E (sponsor UCSB Oakley Lab), Waterborne Autonomous Low-Light Electrostereovideography, a submersible low-light camera that can be deployed in tandem to analyze ostracod courtship patterns using computer-vision techniques. Team members: Veena Chandran, Karthik Kribakaran, Wesley Peery, Franklin Tang, Vincent Wang, Karli Yokotake
[Posters for a couple of capstone projects I assessed with regard to ABET's CE design requirements.]
[A few other projects from this afternoon's poster and demo session for engineering capstone projects.]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Anthony Bourdain, celebrity chef and TV personality commits suicide at 61. [Bourdain on depression]
- Golden State crushed Cleveland 108-85 to sweep the NBA finals series and claim its second straight title.
- It's only a matter of time before cybersecurity breach occurs on an airplane, with dire consequences.
- Intel claims 28-hour laptop batteries are possible with a new low-power display technology.
- Santa Barbara City College Professor Mark McIntire dismissed over sexual misconduct allegations.
- Quotation boards at Goleta's Pieology pizzeria, which I visited this afternoon. [Photos]
- Student artists in Isla Vista are busy prettifying electric and other street-side utility enclosures.
- Look what I found on UCSB Library's new-books shelf: Molla Sadra's selections of Persian poetry.
(6) On mathematics and the real world: "This is the remarkable paradox of mathematics. No matter how determinedly its practitioners ignore the world, they consistently produce the best tools for understanding it. ... [For example] Bernhard Riemann ... replaces Euclid's plane with a bizarre abstraction called curved space, and then, 60 years later, Einstein announces that this is the shape of the universe." ~ John Tierney

2018/06/07 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Map of California, with color-coded results for the governor race in the 6/05 primary election (1) California counties that voted for Gavin Newsome, John Cox, and Antonio Villaraigosa in the governor race: A tad over 20% voted on Tuesday. We are not safe, folks. Take voting seriously!
(2) Began this next-to-last day in the final week of spring quarter classes with some wonderful gift coffee from Hawaii. End-of-quarter and end-of-academic-year activities make for a very busy schedule this week, which will end with our "capstone project day" tomorrow. Final exams are next week.
(3) Motors may become a thing of the past in robots: A University of Hong Kong research team has created the first ever nickel-hydroxide actuating material that, when stimulated by light or electricity, exerts a force equal to 3000 times its own weight, almost instantly.
(4) Women making headway in tech: Following the election of women as President and VP of ACM, world's largest computing association, Vicki L. Hanson has been appointed Exec-Director/CEO of the organization.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Mere weeks after being appointed, Bolton seems to have been sidelined, as Trump prepares to meet Kim.
- Fox News apologizes to the Eagles for using footage of the team praying in its news story about kneeling.
- Time magazine's cover image, issue of June 18, 2018: King Donald's visions of grandeur!
- Miss America ditches the swimsuit competition, claims it is no longer a pageant.
- Golden State beats Cleveland 110-102 to take an insurmountable 3-0 lead in the NBA finals.
- Medieval quote of the day: "Only men are capable of running an international airline." ~ Qatar Airlines CEO
- Soccer World Cup attendees are being warned about lack of safety in public Wi-Fi networks of host cities.
- True or false? Any subset of n + 1 integers chosen from [1, 2n] contains two relatively prime integers.
- [Cartoon caption of the day, from New Yorker] Trump calls audible: "You fake right, I'll fake patriotism."
- From the announcements board of a church: "Jesus would have baked the cake & danced at the wedding!"
(6) Some conservatives claim that the resurrected TV series "Roseanne" was cancelled, not because of its star's racist tweet, but because the character she plays voted for Trump!
(7) Final thought for the day: Terrorists collect wounds, some of them decades or even centuries old, and pick at them continually to keep them fresh. And because their extremist ideologies do not allow forgiveness, tension easily builds up to the point of explosion. [The term "wound collector" was first used in Joe Navarro's book, Hunting Terrorists: A Look at the Psychopathology of Terror.]

2018/06/05 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image for S. Mukherjee's 'The Gene' (1) Book review: Mukherjee, Siddhartha, The Gene: An Intimate History, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Dennis Boutsikaris, Simon & Schuster Audio, 2016. [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This is a detailed and highly personal account of research on genetics and genomics, spanning all the way from its centuries-long prehistory, through the discovery of genes, to the most modern genetic analyses and interventions. The "intimate" of the title has a dual meaning: The account is up-close and personal in how it portrays the research and the researchers; it also covers the author's own family history of mental illness, and how genes played a role in it.
Mukherjee had previously written a Pulitzer-Prize-winning, book, The Emperor of All Maladies, about cancer. The book under review here also has much information about cancer and its genetic dimensions. This trailer of a Ken Burns TV series based on Emperor gives you a good idea of the latter book's scope and significance.
We learn from The Gene that mono-genetic diseases, those caused by mutation in a single gene, are quite easy to diagnose and treat via genetic intervention, whereas diseases caused by the coincidence of multiple gene mutations are much more difficult to diagnose and as yet do not lend themselves to effective interventions.
This is a long (audio)book and listening to or reading it requires dedication and patience. Some of the detours and side stories may not be of interest to all listeners/readers. But perseverance yields great rewards in terms of increasing your knowledge of genetics and genomics. The book is equally appealing to scientists who want to see the entire history of the science of the genes in one place and to lay people who want to learn about exciting scientific developments that are affecting their lives.
(2) First woman recipient of IEEE/ACM Eckert-Mauchly Award: CS Professor Susan Eggers, University of Washington, was cited for her contributions to simultaneous multithreaded processor architectures and multiprocessor sharing and coherency.
(3) Trump's love fest with Macron comes to an end, as France and Germany join forces to advocate for Europe going its own way in matters of defense, finance, refugees, and immigration, in the face of an increasingly unreliable Trump-led US.
(4) These aren't movie stars or models but members of Iran's national soccer team, which just entered Russia in advance of its first World Cup match against Morocco on Friday, June 15.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Guatemala's Fuego volcano eruption kills 70 people: Dangers still loom, as volcanic activity continues.
- "Legally Blonde 3" is in the works: Will Elle Woods join the Mueller team or argue for a #MeToo case?
- Quote of the day: "The more articulate one is, the more dangerous words become." ~ May Sarton
- For my Persian-speaking readerss: Reality funnier than any joke! [Facebook post]
- View of UCSB's lagoon, the ocean beyond it, and the Channel Islands, from a campus walkway.
- Photos from the path of my walk this evening, showing the haze and perfect waves attracting surfers.
(6) Final thought for the day: "Good—he did not have enough imagination to become a mathematician." ~ David Hilbert's reaction, upon hearing that a student had dropped mathematics to become a poet

2018/06/04 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Dazzling monasteries in southwest Germany, photo 1 Dazzling monasteries in southwest Germany, photo 2 Dazzling monasteries in southwest Germany, photo 3 (1) Beautiful architecture: photos of dazzling monasteries in southwest Germany.
(2) Quote of the day: "Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it." ~ Rumi
(3) Trump tweeted this morning that he has an absolute right to pardon himself. He will likely change his mind when he realizes that pardoning himself amounts to admitting he did something wrong!
(4) Bill Clinton's Trumpian moment: He attacked a reporter asking whether he had ever apologized to Monica Lewinsky and what he thought of the #MeToo movement. Clinton later apologized for "getting hot under the collar," but his initial reaction was rather embarrassing.
(5) Asteroid on collision course with Earth spotted on June 2, just hours before impact: Luckily for us, the 6-foot-wide asteroid was small enough to safely disintegrate upon hitting the atmosphere.
(6) Turning CO2 into carbon nanotubes: Extracting carbon from the air may become cost-effective if it results in valuable products, such as carbon nanotubes.
(7) Saudi Arabia issues first batch of 10 driver's licenses to women. They also put about the same number of women in jail for activism in securing driving rights for Saudi women.
(8) Senator Rand Paul questions Mike Pompeo during his confirmation hearing: He makes some very reasonable points regarding Pompeo's demands on Iran.
(9) Turing Award Lecture for 2017 (see CACM's cover image, posted on 6/03): Titled "A New Golden Age for Computer Architecture: Domain-Specific Hardware/Software Co-Design, Enhanced Security, Open Instruction Sets, and Agile Chip Development," the lecture was delivered by John Hennessy and David Patterson at the International Symposium on Computer Architecture in Los Angeles. I watched it via live-streaming. Patterson began by providing, in Part I, a capsule history of computer architecture and how RISC architecture came about and dominated the industry, particularly in mobile and embedded-systems markets. Hennessy then took over and described, in Part II, current technological developments and how slowdowns in sheer density, power, and speed improvements will necessitate greater focus on domain-specific hardware. Both speakers emphasized the alarming lack of attention to security issues at the hardware level. Part III, presented in two segments, outlined research and development opportunities is advancing highly parallel hardware (such as tensor-processing units and hardware for deep learning) and the RISC V open architecture initiative. Q&A followed the presentation, although I lost the connection after a few questions. This 8-minute video was shown as part of the lecture:

2018/06/03 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the In Screenshots of most of the speakers' slides follows. ternet.
David Patterson and John Hennessy on the cover of CACM, June 2018 (1) Turing Award Lecture: The esteemed lecture, titled "A New Golden Age for Computer Architecture: Domain-Specific Hardware/Software Co-Design, Enhanced Security, Open Instruction Sets, and Agile Chip Development," will be delivered on Monday, June 4, 5:00 PM PDT), by computer architects John Hennessy and David Patterson at International Symposium on Computer Architecture in Los Angeles. The lecture is free to the public and is also live-streamed. The accompanying image shows the honorees on the cover of the June 2018 issue of Communications of the ACM.
(2) Bill Nye, the Engineering Guy: Bill Nye, who goes by the moniker "The Science Guy," is actually a mechanical engineer by training. He worked as an engineer at Boeing and other industrial firms, following graduation from Cornell University. His self-identification as a scientist, as well as his signature bow-tie, appear to have come about to make him stand out from the crowd and to wield more authority with a public that adores scientists and virtually ignores engineers. [Adapted from a column by Henry Petroski, in the summer 2018 issue of ASEE's Prism magazine]
(3) Recipe for dictatorship: "Indeed, the President not only has unfettered statutory and Constitutional authority to terminate the FBI Director, he also has Constitutional authority to direct the Justice Department to open or close an investigation, and, of course, the power to pardon any person before, during, or after an investigation and/or conviction. Put simply, the Constitution leaves no question that the President has exclusive authority over the ultimate conduct and disposition of all criminal investigations and over those executive branch officials responsible for conducting those investigations." ~ Passage from a 20-page brief sent by Donald Trump's legal team to Special Counsel Mueller
(4) The Target effect: In psychology, "The IKEA Effect" refers to people valuing their own creations, even if "creation" just involved assembly, more than those of others. This afternoon, I assembled a bookcase bought from Target for use in the family room near the kitchen. It will eventually hold cookbooks and craft books, to help make room for overflowing titles, now stacked on a desk in my study.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Golden Sate beat Cleveland 122-103 tonight to take a 2-0 lead in the 7-game NBA finals series.
- Watch Steph Curry's record-setting nine 3-pointers in game 2 of the NBA finals, Golden State vs. Cleveland.
- It's going to be an interesting G-7 summit, following the US tariffs and our allies' stern reactions to them!
- On pain: "Much of pain that we deal with are really only thoughts." ~ Anonymous
- On betrayal: "When you betray someone, you also betray yourself." ~ Nobel Laureate author Isaac Singer
(6) Quote of the day: "People have only as much liberty as they have the intelligence to want and the courage to take." ~ Emma Goldman
(7) Fake quote of the day: "Don't just get involved, fight for your seat at the table. Better yet, fight for a seat at the head of the table." ~ Barack Obama
[The valedictorian at a Kentucky high school, in a county where Trump won 80% of the vote, trolled his friends by attributing the quote above to Donald Trump in his speech, getting a big cheer!]

2018/06/02 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
You're Americans, act like it (undated photo) Charles Darwin's cross-writing, a technique for saving writing paper, 1828 High-wire artist performs above the ruins of Heumarkt in Cologne, Germany, 1946 (1) History in pictures: [Left] You're Americans, act like it (undated photo). [Center] Charles Darwin's cross-writing, a technique for saving writing paper, 1828. [Right] High-wire artist performs above the ruins of Heumarkt in Cologne, Germany, 1946.
(2) Quote of the day: "Against injustice and oppression, I am a Kurd, a Baluch, a Baha'i, a Dervish." ~ Iranian attorney and human rights activist Mohammad Najafi [Photo]
(3) Business dishonesty and deception: This letter isn't official UC correspondence, as the envelop implies, but comes from an insurance company which offers discounts to UC employees and wants you to open the letter, rather than toss it directly into the recycling bin.
(4) UCLA Iranian Student Group's June 1 Culture Show at Royce Hall: Two dances (traditionan/kurdish and modern Persian), two parts of a comedy skit, and singing "Ey Iran" with piano accompaniment preceded the intermission. Sibarg Ensemble opened the second half of the program (Song 1, Song 2, Song 3. There were three more dances (Guilaki, Baba-Karam-style, and Bandari, choreographed by my daughter), continuation of the comedy skit, a stand-up comedy routine, and a performance by special guest Kamyar, who delighted the audience with a combination of memorable Persian and other tunes. [Iranian dance tune] [Persian/Hebrew/English medley] [French/Persian medley] [Encore, with background dancers]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Those who support Trump's claim that he has no conflict of interest have some explaining to do.
- NASA prepares to mark 50th anniversary of the Apollo Program that landed a dozen Americans on Moon.
- On the 50th anniversary of their 1968 marriage, an inter-racial couple looks back.
- Don't do this at home: Slacklining in high heels. [Video]
- Cartoon of the day: "Grab the jobs resulting from trade wars while they are hot!" [Image]
- Teenage street musicians on a street in Kermanshah, Iran, play up a storm. [5-minute video]
(6) Tweets exchanged between Malala Yousafzai and Elon Musk, after a parody news story reporting that the electric car launched into space by Musk had fallen to Earth, crushing Malala! [Tweets]
(7) Kim Jong Un's letter to Trump is so huge that it makes the recipient's hands look small! It is the biglyest letter ever sent to a POTUS. Obama's biggest received letter was less than a quarter the size of this beauty.

2018/05/31 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Ford Model T totaled in an accident Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic, 1936 Tucker Torpedo, 1948 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Ford Model T totaled in an accident. [Center] Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic, 1936. [Right] Tucker Torpedo, 1948.
(2) Quote of the day: "With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil—that takes religion." ~ Physicist Steven Weinberg
(3) World Cup soccer is 2 weeks away: Despite the US team not participating this time, Fox Sports plans to broadcast 38 games from the tournament held in Russia. Here is the complete TV schedule, 6/14 to 7/15. The schedule includes Iran's group-play games against Morocco on 6/15, 11 AM ET, Spain on 6/20, 2 PM ET, and Portugal on 6/25, 2 PM ET.
(4) Iran gives French company Total 2 months to obtain exemptions from US sanctions, or else China will get its allotment of the South Pars gas field, the largest in the world.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- A reduction in Southern California's low-lying morning clouds has increased the risk of wildfires.
- Wonderful wildlife photos of the week, presented by The Guardian. [Pictorial]
- "And this next one—is it the kind of racism that advances my career or ends it?" [Cartoon, by Maddie Dai]
- Tea and photography: Little is needed for having a good time with friends. [Photo]
- "Only one you'll ever make happy is the Mexican who digs your grave." ~ Nikki Glaser, roasting Ann Coulter
- "Dear whatever doesn't kill me: I think I'm strong enough now. Please stop it. Thank you." ~ Anonymous
(6) Yesterday, May 30, 2018, at UCSB: As I was headed to my 12:00 PM class, I noticed a bulldozer moving on a campus walkway. Because I had a few extra minutes, I followed it to see whether it had a legitimate reason for endangering many students and other campus denizens by driving a long distance on the walkways. It entered the walkway near the Arbor, to the north of the campus library, and drove to the area near Chemistry and Engineering Science Buildings. The starting point was a roadway, and the endpoint was 100 feet away from another roadway, so the bulldozer could have reduced its 0.2-mile drive on the walkway to one-tenth that distance, if the driver had any respect for campus laws and people's safety. [Photos]
(7) ACM elects women to its top two leadership positions: The new Association for Computing Machinery President Cherri M. Pancake is Professor Emeritus and Intel Faculty Fellow at Oregon State University's School of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science and Director of the Northwest Alliance for Computational Science and Engineering. The new ACM VP Elizabeth Churchill is Director of User Experience at Google in Mountain View, California. ACM has around 100,000 computing professionals and students as members worldwide.

2018/05/30 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
US President Gerald Ford trying to impress Pele with his soccer skills, 1975 Conversation pit, 1960s Steven Spielberg in the shark's mouth, on the set of 'Jaws,' 1975 (1) History in pictures: [Left] US President Gerald Ford trying to impress Pele with his soccer skills, 1975. [Center] Conversation pit, 1960s. [Right] Steven Spielberg in the shark's mouth, on the set of 'Jaws,' 1975.
(2) Quote of the day: "In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit." ~ Albert Schweitzer
(3) A real Spider-Man: Young Malian migrant, who rescued a child dangling from a balcony, was made a French citizen and offered a job by the Paris fire brigade.
(4) Decency trumps greed: "Roseanne's Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show." ~ ABC management
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Ladies and gentlemen: Enjoy the deep insights and brilliant mind of President Donald J. Trump! [Video]
- An excellent documentary film about Iranian folk singer Sima Bina. [24-minute video]
- The Borowitz report (humor): White House in panic mode after TV star with racist Twitter feed loses job.
- Unbelievable dexterity and brains: Solving three Rubik Cubes, while juggling them. [Video]
(6) Introducing Springer's Encyclopedia of Big Data Technologies: Bearing a 2019 copyright, many of EBDT's articles already appear on-line. I was co-editor of the section "Big Data on Modern Hardware Systems" and contributed six articles to the volume, the full-texts of which are available via my publications Web page.
(7) UCLA Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran: Screening of Tahmineh Milani's "Untaken Paths," followed by a panel discussion by Partow Nooriala, Dr. Nelly Farnoody-Zahiri, and Abbas Hadjian, held in Room 121 of UCLA's Dodd Hall, on Sunday, June 10, 2018, 4:00 PM. [Flyer]
(8) "Free Speech on Campus": This was the title of the 2018 Wade Clark Roof Lecture on Human Rights, delivered tonight by Constitutional-law scholar and UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman at UCSB's Campbell Hall. Among questions addressed by Gillman were the cost of free speech and whether a college campus can protect free speech and still foster an inclusive environment for all. The talk was based on Gillman's 2018 book of the same tilte, co-authored with Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of UC Berkeley's School of Law, and it included many examples from recent free-speech incidents on college campuses and elsewhere in the US.

2018/05/28 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Poster for the Eighth Parhami Family Reunion Group photo taken at the Eighth Parhami Family Reunion

(1) An 8-year-old annual tradition continues: The Parhami Family held its 8th annual reunion in Long Beach, California, yesterday. Due to a concentration of family members in the Los Angeles area, all 8 reunions, with around 100 attendees each, have been held in Southern California thus far.
(2) "I Madonnari" street-painting Festival: A Santa Barbara tradition for the Memorial-Day weekend, this annual outdoors festival features chalk paintings on a paved area in front of Santa Barbara Mission, along with food, treats, souvenirs, and live music. Upon my arrival, most of the paintings were already complete, with a few artists still working on putting finishing touches on their creations. [Photos]
(3) Nicholas Weaver writes about "Risks of Cryptocurrencies" in the June 2018 edition of CACM's "Inside Risks" column. Here is the article's concluding paragraph: "The risks in the cryptocurrency world are multifaceted and diverse, but fortunately most are limited to those who participate. This leads to a natural conclusion. As the philosopher WOPR said in the movie WarGames, 'The only winning move is not to play.'"
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Honoring the sacrifices of our fellow citizens in uniform, with awe and gratitude, on this Memorial Day!
- Donald Trump thinks that Memorial Day is about him: Can't stop bragging for even one day! [Tweet]
- US lawmakers see no evidence to support Trump's "Spygate" claims.
- Peter Denning interviews David Parnas on software engineering notions in the June 2018 issue of CACM.
- Components in iPhone X used by Face ID 3D-scanning technology. [Image, from CACM, June 2018]
- Iranians worldwide are proud of New York Times' publication of a Persian-style pasta dish, with tah-dig!
(5) In the margins of a movie star's passing: Nasser Malek Motiei was a commercially successful pre-Islamic-Revolution actor, who was banned from working in Iranian cinema by the Islamic regime. He was heartbroken and made ends meet by opening a bakery very close to our family home in Vanak, Tehran. Following his recent passing, some have praised him as a capable actor, but there is also a healthy dose of skepticism about his choice of movies and movie roles that were predominantly misogynistic and glorified knife-wielding uneducated boors, who killed in the name of honor. Iranian cinema is now quite different and has climbed to new heights, not because of Islamic control but despite the Islamic regime's unabashed censorship, thanks to a new wave of directors, actors, and other artists who guard the industry against regime-supported mediocrity. [Shiva Shakoori's FB post, in Persian]

Cover image of Zoya Pirzad's 'We'll Get Used to It' 2018/05/27 (Sunday): Book review: Pirzad, Zoya, We'll Get Used to It (in Persian), Nashr-e Markaz, 2004. (ISBN: 978-964-305-798-5)
[My 3-star review pf this book on GoodReads]
Iranian female novelists, both at home and in diaspora/exile, are writing up a storm, producing a large number of books aimed primarily at women. Let me begin by clarifying why I decided to read a chick-lit title. Iranian women have begun one of the most enlightened political and human-rights movements of our time, one that has been playing a leading role in the overall fight for justice, freedom, and human rights in Iran. It's no exaggeration to say that if the current Islamic regime is overthrown and replaced with a democratic one, women deserve the lion's share of the credit. The significance of this movement, more than anything else, is what attracts me to Iranian women's writings.
The book was recommended and loaned to me by my sister Farnaz, who warned me about its genre. The soft-cover volume I perused is marked the 44th printing, dated 2016, and priced at 17,500 tomans (about $4.50). The back-cover blurb indicates that the book has been translated and published in France, Italy, and Georgia. This is the story of three women (daughter, mother, and grandma) in a Tehrani family of a decade or so ago. We hear the story from Arezoo, a middle-aged woman sandwiched between the incongruent worlds and expectations of her mom, Mah-Monir, who lives in the past, and her teenage daughter, Ayeh, who is consumed by her own needs. Both daughter and grandma blame Arezoo for divorcing Ayeh's father and deem it ridiculous for a middle-aged woman to even think of romance. This is a reflection of the Iranian society's view of romance at an advanced age. Persian even has a saying, "sar-e piri o ma'rakeh guiri," roughly translated to "hogging the stage or showing off at an old age," as if life and its adventures end with marriage and having kids!
Arezoo is an independent woman who doesn't need a man to complete her, and she has some unpleasant experiences with men. But, eventually, Sohrab, a man she deems perfect enters her life. She is perplexed when her mom, daughter, and best friend, Shirin, all take positions against him. The novel's main theme is the choice Arezoo faces: following her heart or bending to the demands of those around her. Will they ever accept and get used to her getting remarried? Sohrab apparently believes so. Arezoo's perplexing choice is left unresolved by the end of the novel.
Here is an example of social commentary that the author squeezes in between descriptions of mundane daily routines and her feelings for Sohrab (albeit, in the very allegorical and conservative style of Iranian prose in matters of love). Arezoo does not normally take the bus, but one time when she does, she becomes privy to a conversation among several female riders about women's predicament in today's Iran (pp. 155-157). "In your day, your man went to work and you only gave birth, cooked, and cleaned, not like today, when you slave outside the home all day, then wipe and scrub at home, and when, at last, you are ready to pass out for the night, ... there is no god but God." The last Arabic phrase is often used in Persian to indicate something horrible or shameful that should not be spelled out!
Pirzad writes in a direct, colloquial style, using very short sentences, many with 1-3 words (pp. 126-127): "You kill me. How many times do you ask? ... Fantastic! What's fantastic? ... Don't be a jerk. Where are you invited tonight?" I must admit that I was somewhat disappointed with Pirzad's writing and some elements of the storyline, including the cartoonish depiction of Sohrab and other male characters.

2018/05/26 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
New York snow storm, 1947 Plane crashes on a farm, 1962 New York City Central Park, 1933 (1) History in pictures: [Left] New York snow storm, 1947. [Center] Plane crashes on a farm, 1962the pilot survived with multiple broken bones and cuts. [Right] New York City Central Park, 1933.
(2) This year's UCLA Iranian Student Group's Culture Show will be on Friday, June 1, 7:00 PM, at Royce Hall. My daughter Sepideh will be participating in several dances, including a Kurdish one. [Image]
(3) On my schedule for the coming week: I Madonari Street-Painting Festival takes place over the Memorial-Day weekend. Another interesting event is the grand re-opening of Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.
(4) A wonderful use of technology: I sometimes take bus line 28, which goes from the UCSB campus to Goleta's Camino Real Marketplace and is free to UCSB faculty and staff. Yesterday, I noticed a convenient text messaging feature (image) that allows you to get real-time information about bus arrival times at each stop.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- All five people in this image have lucrative business ties with China, despite the tough-on-china rhetoric!
- The world is learning what we have known all along: Iran's mullahs will be overthrown by women.
- Not-so-still life: You see it evolve, as a drink is poured and consumed and a bulb flourishes and withers.
- Pro rock-balancer Pontus Jansson, a true "rock star," at work! [3-minute video]
- The incomparable Victor Borge, having fun with the piano and different singing voices. [10-minute video]
- Cartoon of the day: Thoughts and prayers, without even the slightest sign of caring! [Image]
- Bonus cartoon: "We are standing with the Iranian people." ~ Mike Pompeo [Image]
(6) Speaking to Harvard Law students, Senator Jeff Flake criticizes Trump's "moral vandalism": Talk is cheap, I must add. Why isn't there collective action by the Republicans in Congress, who see this wrecking ball destroy one pillar of our democracy after another and devolve the US presidency into a B-grade reality show?
(7) Looking forward to tomorrow's 8th Parhami Family Reunion in Long Beach, California: According to Facebook, my most-liked photo from 2014 was this one, showing part of the family's fourth generation at the 4th of these Memorial-Day weekend events in Ventura, California.

2018/05/25 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Venice, Italy Saint Petersburg, Russia Florence, Italy (1) Our beautiful world: [Left] Venice, Italy. [Center] Saint Petersburg, Russia. [Right] Florence, Italy.
(2) Rapping for freedom: Featured in Time magazine, issue of May 28, 2018, Sonita Alizadeh, 21, Afghan refugee and undocumented immigrant in Iran, has achieved leadership status by virtue of her rap lyrics opposing child marriage and selling of children to wealthy men. She wrote "Daughters for Sale" at age 17, when her parents tried to sell her into marriage for $9000. [Photo]
(3) Cartoon of the day, by Mana Neyestani: A teacher at a girl's school in Iran cut off a little girl's hair because she thought it would seduce the male vice-principal! [Image]
(4) Today, I watched a discussion at St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on C-SPAN: United States and its economic policies have been the subject of many questions posed to the participants, which include Putin and Macron. [TV screenshot]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- EU leads in cyber-privacy: European Union's new data privacy law should be copied worldwide.
- This 2015 speech of King Abdullah II of Jordan is still very relevant. [16-minute video]
- US Postal Service issues a stamp to honor Sally Ride, the first US female astronaut.
- Persian poetry: A love poem by Mowlavi (Rumi). [Image of the poem]
- Do you think these guys practice kissing before the wedding? They all have such perfect form! [Image]
- Dotard to Rocket Man: Hey, I almost met you; And this is crazy; But here's my number; So, call me maybe!
(6) Will the commemorative peace coins manufactured by the White House Communications Agency find any use? "We'll see what happens," as Trump often says! Someone already made an updated version of the Coin, in light of new developments! Here are side-by-side images of the WH coin and its humorous update.
(7) The initiative to legalize abortion seems to have succeeded in Ireland: The Catholic Church, with its many scandals, is losing its tight grip.
(8) Finally, a powerful sexual predator is led away in handcuffs: Harvey Weinstein was arrested and released on $1 million bail. Meanwhile, Gretchen Carlson just appeared on PBS's "In Principle." She discussed recent developments in the #MeToo movement, how false accusations, though a problem, account for a tiny fraction of all cases, and why she is focusing also on educating boys. #TimesUp

Cover image for Harari's 'Sapiens' 2018/05/24 (Thursday): Book review: Harari, Yuval Noah, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Derek Perkins, Harper Audio, 2017.
[My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
The common view of history spans a few millennia and includes stories from the rise and fall of empires. The history in this book is much more wide-ranging, beginning with our genetic ancestors and ending with how the human species is changing as we speak, setting the stage for Harari's follow-up book, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (2017). Harari presents an account of how our species came to dominate the Earth, wiping out many other species, including competing human species (such as Neandertals), and changing the world around us, to the extent that nothing resembles its natural state.
Three inflection points in the course of human history accelerated the changes. The cognitive revolution, some 70,000 years ago, led to humans exhibiting highly ingenious behavior. The agricultural revolution of 12,000 years ago relieved us from the rigors of the hunter-gatherer lifestyle and provided us with a lot more time to think and plan. The scientific revolution of 500 years ago, which in turn triggered the industrial revolution of the 18th century and the information revolution of the 20th century, has greatly expanded our understanding of nature and human condition, and it may bring about the biotechnical revolution, leading, over time, to the emergence of amortal post-humans.
Alongside the three main inflection points just mentioned, Harari discusses many other momentous events, exemplified by the development of language as an important tool for abstract thinking, large-scale cooperation, and socializing. A second example, though a negative one, is the establishment of monotheistic religions, which took us backward from the much more open and tolerant polytheistic faiths preceding them. Of equal significance was the emergence of money and credit, which helped the rapid spread of trade and civilization, via capitalism and associated financial markets.
One point that Harari keeps returning to is the fact that animals (other species) have paid a terrible price for the rise of sapiens, both during our hunter-gatherer days and in today's factory farms. Harari characterizes modern industrial agriculture as the greatest fraud/crime in history, because it has brought us poorer diets, longer work hours, a host of diseases, and many other ills. A key cause of this surprising dissonance is that, while we have plenty of food to eat, our genes have not yet adapted to the new reality, as they still think we are in the savannah, suffering from a dearth of sugars and fats.
Harari also discusses at length the notion of human happiness, citing research studies that conclude it has little to do with material possessions. The last 15 millennia have given us much in terms of material success but hardly greater happiness. This is a tricky area of scholarship, because there are those who view such conclusions as veiled justifications for social inequality and wage and income gaps. Difficulties of this kind are par for the course in any formulation of history, as historical discussions are bound to be tainted by ideologies and other biases.
Sapiens is a remarkable book, which is jam-packed with information, making it difficult to sample all of its ideas in a review of this kind. Its macro view of history as a collection of inflection points and momentous events is refreshing and eye-opening. The book has my highest recommendation.

2018/05/23 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cell phones, from 1G to 5G eras (1) Handy reference to compare 1G-5G mobile phone standards: The dates are approximate and stated differently in various sources.
1G (1980): Analog, voice only
2G (1990): Messaging, SMS, MMS
2.5G (bridge): Very limited data
3G (2000): Data, video calls, Internet
4G (2010): More data, gaming, HDTV
5G (2020): Huge data, super-speed, ...
(2) The last installment of Pollock Theater's "Women in Comedy" film series: Last night's program consisted of two silent films from the 1910s, screened with live piano accompaniment by Michael Mortilla, who improvises brilliantly as the film plays. It turns out that during cinema's early days, women were intimately involved in all aspects of film production. A reception followed the program. [Video clip 1] [Video clip 2]
(3) Remembering the Isla Vista massacre of May 23, 2014: Backpacks strewn on a lawn adjacent to Storke Tower commemorated the six UCSB students murdered four years ago and other victims of school shootings. Michael Martinez, who lost his only child in that horrible event, and went on to become an activist against gun violence, with the slogan "Not One More," gave a passionate speech at today's vigil.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Oscar-winning documentarian Errol Morris explains why Donald Trump can't kill the truth.
- This assessment of @realDonaldTrump by @mikebarnicle is spot on. [Tweet]
- Can't argue with data and facts: Sensible gun laws save lives, plain and simple! [Protester sign]
- A Persian couplet of mine from 2010: Half-verse initial letters spell a name. [Poem]
- Mother-in-law ("maadar-showhar," in Persian) must not see her bride being pampered! [Brief video]
Cover image for Tayari Jones' 'An American Marriage' (5) Book review: Jones, Tayari, An American Marriage: A Novel, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Sean Crisden and Eisa Davis, HighBridge, 2018.
[My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
The story of this novel revolves around Celestial, a fiercely independent and thriving black artist who marries Roy, a young executive, and begins to live the American Dream in Atlanta. When her husband is suddenly arrested and sentenced to 12 years in prison for a murder she knew he did not commit, her marriage is put to a stern test.
Celestial comes to understand that perhaps her life with Roy was not based on true love but on convenience and familiarity. While in prison, Roy simply assumes that his wife will wait for him, but Celestial takes comfort in and begins a love affair with Andre, a childhood friend. When Roy's conviction is overturned and he returns home to Celestial after five years, he finds that he is no longer welcome.
Each chapter of this novel is written from the perspective of one of the three main characters; hence, the male and female narrators in the audiobook version.

2018/05/21 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Kia Nobre and Luciano Floridi (1) A neuroscientist and a philosopher walk into a room: There is no joke here, just a joint presentation, today at UCSB, by wife and husband, neuroscientist Kia Nobre (Oxford Center for Human Brain Activity) and philosopher Luciano Floridi (Oxford Internet Institute), as the last installment of SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind's Lecture Series for this academic year. The presentation took the form of free exchange on human brain and mind, of the kind the couple conducts in the kitchen at home. Floridi joked that young scientists should not try this at home (actually, that they should try it only at home, focusing on mainstream ideas at work), as their musings go against convention, to the extent that doing such work may be harmful to a young professor's tenure prospects and acquisition of research funding! Human perception is incomplete and highly dependent on memories, experiences, and cultural influences. It is a harmful oversimplification to think of regions of brain as having specific functions or as being specialized. The entire brain is a network of interconnected elements, with every part influencing every other part. So, the brain is best understood as a densely interconnected network, rather than as a set of interacting blocks. We are conditioned to think of our universe as a collection of things (hence, our focus on ontology), whereas Nobre and Floridi emphasize interactions: An object exists only if you can interact with it. The "things" in our brain, the various areas, each with its specific name, are emphasized at the expense of reduced attention to interactions. Another problem is that we do not embrace uncertainty as something valuable; our scientific traditions are tuned to eliminating or killing uncertainty. [Photos and some slides]
(2) Yesterday, on the UCSB campus: Walking home from the interesting and highly informative joint talk described above, I snapped two photos of Storke Tower against a beautiful partly-cloudy sky and spent some time at an outdoors book-sale stand. I resisted temptation and did not buy any books, which were rather pricey (for used volumes), some being first or rare editions. [Photos]
(3) Pompeo threatens Iran with strongest sanctions ever, if it does not comply with US demands: This is bullying, carried to the extreme! After tearing up the nuclear deal it made in conjunction with European allies, the US is in no position to make demands on Iran. As an Iranian-American, I am in a bind when commenting on this issue. I am a strong opponent of the backward, misogynistic, dictatorial regime in Iran and would be happy to see it fall, but only if democratic forces prevail. A new dictatorship will only set Iran back another 3-4 decades. However, no country in the world should be allowed to make demands on other countries, without entering into bilateral or multi-lateral negotiations, of the kind that US just annulled unilaterally.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- The asteroid 2015 BZ509, discovered on Earth three years ago, is believed to be interstellar in origin.
- Incredible images of volcanic eruptions and lava flow on Hawaii's Big Island. [Pictorial]
- Multiple Saudi activists who encouraged women to learn how to drive have been arrested.
- Kazerun, the site of recent bloody protests in Iran, is the least-developed part of the Fars Province.
- Iranian-British prisoner Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe faces a new charge of "anti-regime propaganda" in Iran.
- Hey, Donald: Did you tell the Chinese that North Korea will pay for the Wall you are suggesting? [Tweet]
- For my Persian-speaking friends: Humorous meme received via Telegram.
- Pres. to VP: "Can you get your people to do the rapture before I have to talk to Robert Mueller?" [Cartoon]
(5) Final thought for the day: After days of royal-wedding coverage, here are some basic questions.
What's Prince Harry's last name? What are his level and field of education? What does he do for a living?

2018/05/20 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Poster for Fanni class of 1968 reunion in July 2018 (1) Tehran University College of Engineering (Daaneshkadeh-ye Fanni) 50th anniversary reunion of the class of 1968 is approaching: We will be in Yerevan, Armenia, from July 14 to July 18, 2018, staying at Metropol Hotel. So far, 10 classmates from Iran (6 with spouses) and 5 from other countries (2 with spouses) have confirmed their attendance. A few others are working on plans to join us.
Visiting this Facebook event page, you can indicate interest (to keep posted about updates) or attendance.
[PBS film on Armenia ("Parts Unknown")]
(2) [Trumpian logic] I was pulled over and blood on my clothes caused suspicion. The cops tried to pin the latest town murder on me, but DNA didn't match. Now they are looking at other murders. Witch hunt!
(3) The Trump of the high-tech world: The blood-testing company Theranos went from a worth of billions to zero virtually overnight. Tonight's "60 Minutes" program provided a lot of details. Elizabeth Holmes fooled investors, customers, and regulators into believing that her blood-testing technology based on pricking fingers, rather than drawing a much larger amount of blood, worked and, over several years, no one actually thought of testing her claims, before getting involved in what they thought was a profit bonanza. Some investors, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, lost millions, as the company's worth vanished.
(4) Iran's president MIA: In this wonderfully-written Persian essay, Lili Golestan asks President Rouhani some pointed questions: She wonders why he has been missing in action, not reacting to many positive developments (e.g., Jafar Panahi being honored at Cannes, while banned from leaving Iran to attend, and Iranian women winning Asia's futsal championship) and negative occurrences (e.g., clownish burning of a paper US flag in the parliament, while the Majlis speaker looked on, and cancelling of Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk's entire schedule of appearances in Iran) in the span of a single month.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- No, Donald! In a murder case, finding more bodies does not mean that the first victim was not killed.
- Iranian-American developer in Beverly Hills arrested on federal bribery charges.
- Word Tetris: This addicting game is a mix of Crossword, Scrabble, Word-Find, and Tetris!
- Giant strawberries in a package I bought today! [Photo]
- Hoping all of us can be like this man demonstrating soccer tricks at age 80! [1-minute video]
(6) "RBG: A Look at the Life and Work of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg": This documentary film, which I saw at SBIFF Riviera Theater today, is highly recommended. I had read two books about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, affectionately known as "The Notorious RBG," before seeing this film, but I still learned much about her remarkable life and contributions. The film is packed with information about RBG's trailblazing style, her love for her highly supportive husband (who passed away in 2010), and her collegiality with other Justices, and it contains quite a few funny moments. The historical photos and film clips used, including portions of RBG's remarks during her confirmation hearing, are riveting. [Photos] [Trailer]

2018/05/19 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cereal bowl, with berries Today's royal wedding kiss Photo of my dream dinner, grabbed from the Internet (1) Today in pictures: [Left] My favorite breakfast, when berries are in season. [Center] Nearly impossible to ignore the royal wedding, as it's everywhere! [Right] My dream dinner (photo grabbed from the Internet).
(2) More thoughts and prayers, and hardly any action: A Republican has mused that school shootings result from schools having too many doors. We demand background checks for door installers!
(3) It wasn't just Russia: Donald Trump Jr. met with emmisaries of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates who wanted to help his dad become president. Oil tycoons trying to take over the world?
(4) When one in twenty cars on the road is a self-driving car, many traffic jams can be avoided: Even a single self-driving car can reduce phantom jams, which are jams created by the chain reaction resulting from a single car braking suddenly.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Deaths in 2018 from US school shootings exceed combat plus non-combat military casualties. [Chart]
- CDC data indicates that US farmers have the highest rate of suicide (4-5X that of the general population).
- North Korean officials reportedly reading Fire and Fury and Art of the Deal to understand Trump.
- The deputy who stayed outside during Parkland School massacre retires with $8700 monthly pension.
- New evidence of water plumes make Jupiter's moon Europa a prime candidate for hosting alien life.
- Time-location connectors in English: When to use "in," "on," "at." [Chart]
- Science explains the "Yanny versus Laurel" viral Internet question. [Video]
- Triple-threat young artist: Mezzo-soprano, pianist, and composer Miyoung Kim performs a Rossini aria.
- A persian verse, translated and technically illustrated. ["The world has its ups and downs, don't worry"]
- Interesting digital display of images and text on a computer-controlled waterfall in Iran. [2-minute video]
(6) Secret parts of Anne Frank's diary: A team of Dutch researchers backlit two pages Anne Frank had covered with making tape in her diary, took photos, and used an image-processing software to make the text legible. The uncovered entry, dated September 28, 1942, contained five crossed-out phrases, four dirty jokes, and 33 lines about sex education and prostitution.

2018/05/18 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Mars probe captures photo of Earth and Moon (1) Sobering thought for the day: Mars probe captures photo of Earth and Moon that makes us feel truly insignificant.
(2) I will definitely watch this movie about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (Santa Barbara's Riviera Theater, May 17-24, 5:00 & 7:30 PM; Sat-Sun also at 12:30 & 2:45 PM)
(3) Book signing in Santa Barbara: The book Lost Boys about Iran, written by Darcy Rosenblatt, sounds interesting. (Event at Chaucer's Books, Sunday 5/20, 2:00 PM)
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- And who in the world would take Trump's protection guarantees seriously? [Trump addresses N. Korea]
- Texas teen uses dad's guns to murder 10 and injure 10 others at school: Thoughts and prayers, no action!
- World news on hold, while two people get married. I'm sick of the wall-to-wall coverage of "royal wedding"!
- Bill Gates discusses the two meetings he had with Donald Trump, and it ain't a pretty picture! [Video]
- This Der Spiegel cover cartoon from exactly one year ago is still very relevant.
- Persian poetry: Selected verses from Parvin E'tessami's poem "Hope and Despair" ("Omid va No'midi")
(5) Storke Tower tour: Today at noon, I went on the Storke Tower tour, offered as part of the Staff Celebration week activities. The tour went to the observation level, just below the carillon level, which was not accessible today. These photos show views from all four sides, plus zoom-ins showing the airport and Goleta Pier (with Engineering I Building to its left).
(6) Tour of UCSB's data center in North Hall: Held from 1:00 to 2:00 PM today, the tour was part of the Staff Celebration Week activities. The North Hall facilty used to house UCSB's data processing operations, which entailed the use of a mainframe. Later, computer facilities were distributed across the campus, until it was decided to have a communal facility, where each campus entity could install and manage its servers, while enjoying a central staff, machine room cooling, uninterrupted power, 24/7 security, and other benefits of pooling their resources together. Servers are housed in locked racks which are accessible only to authorized personnel. Racks are placed along rows, in such a way that the aisles between them are alternately cool and hot. Cool aisles have perforated floors through which chilled air is pumped. The cold air goes through the servers and emerges hot in the adjacent aisle, where it is sucked through the ceiling and sent to chilling devices. Walking through the hot aisles was uncomfortable. Temparatures across the data center are continually monitored and any rise above a threshold is detected and dealt with by either increasing the cooling power or reducing load. Rows of racks are placed on special foundations that allow them to swing back and forth in the event of an earthquake. The server hall contains uninterrupted power supplies and cooling devices, as well as termination points for fiber-optic cables that connect the campus to the external world. Critical communication equipment in the data center are placed behind a fence wall, from where they connect to the racks via overhead cables. We saw a demonstration of disk crushing/nuking machine that allows secure discarding of old hard disks. The last parts of the tour led us to backup chillers and generator outside the building. [16 photos]
(7) Computer Science Distinguished Lecture at UCSB: Held beginning at 2:00 this afternoon, the lecture by Jiawei Han (Professor, U. Illinois) was entitled "Mining Structures from Massive Text Data: A Data-Driven Approach." Much of the real-world data is textual and, thus, unstructured. To extract big knowledge from big data, some sort of structure must be imposed. The conversion from unstructured to structured data must be automatic if we hope to make it scalable. The speaker argued that massive text data itself may disclose a large body of hidden patterns, structures, and knowledge, which can be extracted with help from domain-independent and domain-specific knowledge bases. Professor Han's research has shown that massive text data disclose patterns and structures for conversion to structured knowledge. A key insight is that the focus should be placed on phrases, rather then words. Phrases can be understood by seeing which other phrases are associated with them in our massive text databases, examples of which include Wikipedia, specialized bibliographies, news sources, and books. [7 slides]

2018/05/17 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
School bus, 1937 Tehran, Iran, 1970s London bus, 1928 (1) History in pictures: [Left] School bus, 1937. [Center] Tehran, Iran, 1970s. [Right] London bus, 1928.
(2) Alien life on Earth: There have been some suggestions that instead of, or alongside, searching the cosmos for signs of life, we should scour the myriads of microorganisms on Earth to determine whether some of them arrived from space on meteorites. It is unlikely that larger life forms arrived from space. But, in a stunning development, 33 scientists think that octopi may be alien life forms.
(3) Trump picked a pastor who says Jews will go to hell to lead the prayer at Jerusalem embassy opening.
(4) Missing files trigger fear of cover-up: A law-enforcement official leaked Michael Cohen's financial records after finding out that additional suspicious transactions had disappeared from a government database.
(5) Today's top-ten news headlines:
- Mueller's Russia probe enters its second year
- US birth rate hits its lowest level since 1987
- Hawaii's Kilauea volcano spews out huge rocks
- US Senate votes to reinstate net neutrality
- US Senate panel: Russia favored Trump in 2016
- MSU to pay $500M to Larry Nassar abuse survivors
- Cambridge Analytica under DoJ and FBI probe
- Death toll rises in Gaza-Israel border conflicts
- Michael Avenatti reveals more payoffs to women
- Tom Wolfe, journalist and novelist, dead at 88
(6) Classical music recital: Late spring quarter is the time for formal performances by the various ensembles and students affiliated with UCSB's Music Department. Not knowing any of the students, I chose, more or less at random, a few of their performances that fit my schedule. In the case of today, I hit the jackpot and was treated to the mezzo-soprano voice of the delightful Kelly Newberry, a young performer with a highly developed voice and style.
As encore, Ms. Newberry offered a beautiful rendition of "The Sound of Music" title song. [The program]
Sample music from YouTube: "Oh! Quand Je Dors" and "Somewhere" (from "West Side Story")
During the intermission, I discovered that I had been sitting next to the performer's teacher, opera singer and biomedical engineer Isabel Bayrakdarian. She introduced herself and volunteered that I looked familiar (which isn't surprising, given how many Music Dept. events I attend). A discussion on our Media Arts and Technology Program and advances in the therapeutic use of music ensued. She was obviously very proud of her student.
[In the margin: Leaving the recital, I came across this outdoors music class. Too bad I can't hold my classes outdoors on these beautiful spring days, given the need for block diagrams, formulas, and charts/graphs!]

2018/05/16 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Peace symbol: Dove with olive branch Colorful design made of peace signs International peace sign (1) Hoping for the demise of hateful warmongers and the establishment of peace on Earth!
(2) Corruption to the extreme: Do you wonder why Trump has suddenly warmed up to trade with the Chinese, to the extent of wanting to bail out their telecom giant and save the associated Chinese jobs? It just so happens that China is providing a $500 million loan to a Trump-affiliated resort project in Indonesia.
(3) Why Washington's swamp creatures tolerate Trump: Before Trump's election, the American people were quite dissatisfied with politicians, Republicans and Democrats, and were actively organizing to kick them out of office. Now all these swamp creatures are looking benign in comparison with the scariest creature of them all!
(4) Tomas Lang [1938-2018]: One of the best-known and most-respected computer arithmetic researchers, Tomas also contributed to a variety of other subfields of computer architecture. He was a regular contributor to IEEE Trans. Computers and to IEEE Symp. Computer Arithmetic. I first met him at UCLA in the early 1970s, during my doctoral studies. He later got settled at UC Irvine and retired from there. RIP, old friend! [Tribute]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- North Korea cancels high-level talks with South Korea and threatens to cancel summit with the US.
- Europe is hard at work to rescue the Iran nuclear deal. [Aljazeera report]
- The physics of NASA's planned helicopter flight on Mars. [Wired article]
- Science reveals the answer: How giant dinosaurs sat on their eggs without crushing them.
- Antarctica-centered world map: Change of perspective is often helpful to understanding.
- A brilliant senior prank: Creating the illusion of a car breaking through a wall. [Photo]
(6) "All in this Together: Racial Justice and Democracy in the 21st Century": This was the title of last night's talk by Rinku Sen at UCSB's Multicultural Center Theater in the framework of UCSB Diversity Lectures.
Ms. Sen began with a very personal story from 1999, when the man she had been dating suddenly married someone else. After being down for a period of time, she ventured out to a Safeway supermarket, where she overheard a couple of white people talking about the unfortunate dissolution of a labor union. When she tried to express an opinion about how to confront the problem, she was dismissed in a rude manner because of her brown skin. By the way, until I heard this story, I thought of the youthful-looking speaker as someone just out of college! Ms. Sen related a number of stories about the current predicament in the US and around the world, where racists feel empowered to speak their minds without any of the considerations that had become part of our social norms before the Trump era.
Ms. Sen characterized the actions of racists, a group that includes many who are not Trump supporters, as "racial terror." She concluded by providing three practical tips for helping solve the racism problem.
- Interrupt racist speech: If you are engaged in a discussion or debate, follow the three steps of connect (connection should be genuine), pivot, and educate. For the latter part, avoid lecturing and spewing facts and tell stories instead. In other contexts, where debating is impractical or undesirable, just do the first step of interrupting, because that in itself defangs the offender. Be aware that some risk of physical harm is involved in interrupting racist speech; so, proceed with care.
- Get in proximity with people of color, even if you are a colored person yourself. This is very important for developing understanding. Some 60% of white people in the US do not have any colored friends. This advice reminds me of an anonymous quote I encountered a while ago: "Prejudice can't survive proximity."
- Examine all national and local policy debates through a racial lens. This is akin to environmental impact assessments that are required for erecting a building, developing a road, and starting almost any construction project. In a similar vein, a racial impact assessment should be required before enacting laws and policies.
Here are some resources: Race Forward; The Maven; Responding to Racist Talk at Family Gatherings.
Here are a couple of photos I took on my way to the Multicultural Center Theater for the talk.

2018/05/14 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Der Spiegel cover image of May 12, 2018 (1) Germany's Der Spiegel continues to taunt Trump with its cover images.
(2) Persian poetry: Selected verses from a beautiful poem by Hafez.
(3) This isn't a prison in the normal sense of the term: Even though the women living in this dorm, in the Iranian city of Sanandaj, can get out if they want, they are indeed prisoners of their backward, misogynistic government which denies them sunlight, in the off chance that male passers-by might catch a glimpse of their silhouettes, as they go about their daily routines. Sickening!
(4) Festivities and deadly protests in Israel: As Ivanka Trump opened the US embassy in Jerusalem with a big smile, some 60 Palestinians from Gaza Strip were killed at the Israeli border. Hamas leaders egged on the protesters to try to cross the border, where Israeli border patrols shot at them. Whether this was a legitimate defense by Israel is open to question. What is beyond question is the stupidity of the embassy move with drumbeat and fanfare. You can't poke an adversary in the eye and then extend peace offer to it. [Photos]
(5) Think twice before ordering sunny-side-up eggs: According to US CDC, more than 30 people have reported getting sick after consuming eggs contaminated with salmonella.
(6) Ancestry research continues to expose hypocrites: Tomi Lahren, a conservative commentator on Fox News, spews hatred about immigrants in her rants. Her hateful commentary often thrashes poor people and those who are not fluent in English as undeserving of becoming Americans. German genealogist and journalist Jennifer Mendelsohn researched Laren's ancestry and came up with these gems, among others. Not many of these immigrant-bashers would be here today if the policies they advocate were in effect when their ancestors came to this country. Some of my own family members, who were born outside the US and knew little English when they came over, are now among the most ardent immigrant-bashers.
(7) An observation from Iran (received via Telegram): The tragedy of our lives is that we are censored by one country and sanctioned by another. We use anti-filter software from the sanctioning country to read the news about the sanctioned, censoring country! [In Persian]
(8) Giving credit where credit is due: A symposium credits physicist Eunice Foote for her role in discovering the principal cause of global warming. (Front cover of Eunice Foote's 1856 paper on global warming)
(9) Ad (date unknown) for a portable typewriter weighing only 4 times as much as a modern laptop and 8 times as much as an iPad!

2018/05/13 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Mothers' Day greetings (1) A very happy Mothers' Day to my mom, my three sisters, and all the women friends whose motherly instincts and love make the world go around!
(2) Hawaii's Big Island under siege: I snapped these TV screen shots from a CNN Report, late this morning. New fissures keep opening up, some many miles away from the volcano itself, which may blow up any time now.
(3) Quote of the day: "Trump is what he is, a floundering, inarticulate jumble of gnawing insecurities and not-at-all compensating vanities, which is pathetic. Pence is what he has chosen to be, which is horrifying." ~ Columnist George Will, on VP Pence's Faustian bargain with the devil
(4) Reacting to a professor's comment that her shorts were too short, Cornell University student presented her thesis in underwear.
(5) California flexes its muscles: US automakers wanted some relief from Obama-era emission standards. The Trump administration gave them more than they asked for. Now, they are worried that California might set its own stricter standards, forcing manufacturers to make two categories of cars, which would raise their costs. Trump has ordered administration officials to negotiate with California about a uniform US standard.
(6) Benedict Cumberbatch: One of the few male actors standing up for the rights of his female co-stars: He won't accept film roles, unless actresses playing against him get equal pay.
Cover image for Naomi Klein's 'No Is Not Enough' (7) Book review: Klein, Naomi, No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump's Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need, unabridged audiobook on 7 CDs, read by Brit Marling, Blackstone Audio, 2017.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Klein issues a timely warning about the perils of Trump's presidency, advising that mere refusal must be replaced with thoughtful resistance to prevent further erosion of our rights and democratic institutions. In the process, Klein makes frequent references to The Shock Doctrine, subject of an earlier book of hers, in which she suggests that the political Right and corporations manufacture one crisis after another, using the resulting chaos and fear to advance their self-serving agendas. We must learn to function within this unending crisis mode, rather than wait for the dust to settle, so to speak, before we act.
Quoting from the blurb on the back of the CD box for the book's audio version, "Klein explains that Trump, extreme as he is, is not an aberration but a logical extension of the worst and most dangerous trends of the past half-century. In exposing the malignant forces behind Trump's rise, she puts forward a bold vision for a mass movement to counter rising militarism, racism, and corporatism in the United States and around the world." In a sense, therefore, undue focus on Trump's racism and racist supporters may blind us to the forces he has unleashed within the military industrial complex and large multi-national corporations, which will be the major beneficiaries of his fiscal policies. So, racist groups and incidents may be viewed as the shock factors that allow the rest of his agenda to go forward unnoticed.
The early parts of No Is Not Enough are much better-written and more convincingly argued, to the point of being eye-opening in many regards. The second half gets bogged down in minutia, questionable assumptions, and less-than-convincing arguments. This may be, in part, due to the speed with which the book went from conception to publication. Nevertheless, this is an important book that must be read by anyone who wants to play a role in effective resistance against the Trump administration and Trump-like political operatives in the United States and around the world.

2018/05/12 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Climate change hoax The latest Lego-blocks set Baloney (1) Interesting designs: [Left] "Climate change hoax." [Center] The latest Lego-blocks set. [Right] "Baloney."
(2) Brain drain from a nation known for its start-up culture: Iran is tops in the world, when it comes to brain drain. However, Newsweek reports that many Israelis are also moving to the US and staying for good.
(3) Iran's Supreme Leader is shown inspecting a Persian version of Fire and Fury at a book fair. Of course, no equivalent book about Khamenei himself will see the light of day in Iran!
(4) Eighty-two women stood together on Cannes Film Festival's red carpet in a protest for better treatment and representation of women in film (#TimesUp).
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- NASA plans to use a small helicopter for exploration on its 2020 rover mission to Mars.
- Senator Chuck Schumer responds to Trump's Twitter rant with #BeBest, and nothing else!
- Iranian women's futsal and karate teams claim Asian championships. [Team photos]
- History in pictures: Netherlands, 1966 (B&W photo by Rudi Herzog).
- Cartoon of the day: The first couple reveal their respective social agendas. [Image]
- Persian poetry: A beautiful couplet from Haatef Esfahaani. [Persian text]
- Taking tooth-and-nail literally! [Video]
- "Nothing in this world is harder than speaking the truth, nothing easier than flattery." ~ Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- Persian love song for the departed beloved "Telegram"! [1-minute video]
Cover image for Leslie T. Chang's 'Factory Girls' (6) Book review: Chang, Leslie T., Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China, unabridged audiobook on 12 CDs, read by Susan Erickson, Tantor Media, 2008.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
By focusing on the lives of two young women, whom she shadowed for three years, Chang, a former WSJ correspondent in Beijing, tells the story of China's 130 million migrant workers, constituting the largest migration in human history.
Chinese migrants are predominantly young men and women who flee the poverty and idleness of rural life in pursuit of their dreams, taking occasional English and computer classes for enhanced upward mobility. Chang intertwines the migrant workers' life stories with the adventures of her own family, who migrated within China and eventually moved to the West.
About one-third of migrants are women, who are on average younger, travel further from home, and stay out longer than their male counterparts. This is, in part, because they can gain more from the experience of moving away from a home where they are not really wanted. But they also tend to end up in a no-woman's land, between unfriendly family members and urban youths who don't quite accept them.
This eye-opening book exposes the dire economic conditions in China and the immense personal and familial sacrifices the migrants make to be able to live just above the poverty line. China's economic might is built on the backs of these young workers.

2018/05/11 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Orestis Koletsos Greek Ensemble (1) Greek music: Orestis Koletsos Greek Ensemble performed tonight at UCSB's Multicultural Center Theater to a sold-out audience. The group consists of four wonderful musicians, who are inspired by composer Mikis Theodorakis, of "Zorba the Greek" fame, who almost single-handedly popularized Greek music worldwide. [Photos]
Here's a complete 115-minute concert of the group from YouTube.
(2) Dance movements converted to music: With sensors connected to his body, dancer Kaiji Moriyama became a finely tuned musical instrument, as AI interpreted his body movements, converted them to MIDI data, and sent them to a Yamaha Disklavier player piano. [Photo credit: IEEE Spectrum, issue of May 2018]
(3) Two very different Irans: The Iran of Asghar Farhadi, whose latest film, "Everybody Knows," was given the honor of opening the Cannes Film Festival, and the Iran of mullahs, where they torch print-outs of US flag and the nuclear agreement in the parliament. And there are two very different USAs as well!
(4) Growing a new ear: Doctors at William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas, took cartilage from a soldier's ribs to craft a new ear, which was then inserted under the skin of the forearm so that it could grow as a replacement for an ear he lost in an accident. [Photo] [Source: Newsweek]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Analysis of Russian-funded Facebook ads shows they even used Beyonce to sow discord among Americans.
- The strongman era is upon us: How tough guys came to rule the world. [Time magazine image]
- UCSB Library's special display marking the Middle East Awareness Week.
- Photos from my walk on the beach this afternoon: Including image of the audiobook I am listening to.
- The Borowitz Report (humor): Trump considering pulling US out of Constitution.
- English translation of a poem by Mowlavi (Rumi). [Text image]
- Vegan: "Anyone who sells meat is gross." Carnivore: "Well, anyone who sells fruits and vegetables is grocer."
(6) Cartoon of the day: Iran's economy may have entered a death spiral, as the government fails to slow the rising exchange rate for US dollar. [Image credit:]
(7) Support among Republicans for challenging Trump in the 2020 presidential election, by age group: 18-24, 82%; 25-34, 57%; 35-44, 58%; 65+: 26%. It seems that older people are more easily scared! Trump losing in the primaries would be such poetic justice! I am sure he will blame the media, illegal voters, or even Putin (on whom Trump was very tough; LOL).
(8) Hearing Alexander Graham Bell's voice: This badly decomposed wax disk recording from 1885 was scanned digitally to recover the sound waves stored on it. The recording turned out to be Bell's famous statement "Hear my voice." [Photo credit: IEEE Spectrum, issue of May 2018]

2018/05/10 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Morality policewoman questions a woman's hijab in front of Tehran University (1) Morality policewoman questions a woman's hijab in front of Tehran University. [Photo credit:]
(2) Madmen click together: Only Trump would try to negotiate a nuclear deal with a madman, who has reneged on every past promise, while scrapping another nuclear deal that seemed to be working, according to.our major European allies.
(3) On US foreign policy: An insightful analysis of differences between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton, and why a clash between their contrasting styles is inevitable.
(4) Meanwhile in Iran: Hardliners, including the Supreme Leader, are basking in Trump's decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal, telling anyone who'd listen that they were right in their "US cannot be trusted" advice.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Kim Jong Un releases three US prisoners ahead of his planned meeting with Donald Trump.
- Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could soon erupt again, spewing ash and boulder-size rocks in the air. [Photo]
- Persian poetry: A wonderful verse from Sa'adi. [Poem]
- Ancient Buddhist statue is found to contain hoard of artifacts, including scrolls.
- Quote of the day: "If you obsess about your looks, it kills your spirit." ~ Actress/model Lauren Hutton
- PhotoShopped images are no longer distinguishable from real ones: A rock in Thailand. [Image]
(6) Alan Turing, known as father of computer science, was also a naturalist, who used math to explain patterns in nature, with results that continue to enlighten today's researchers.
(7) You have seen mud and, more recently, lava covering a street. Now for something more pleasant: Liquid chocolate spilled from an overturned truck! [Photo]
(8) Some celebrity big-birthdays in April and May, 2018, according to AARP Magazine: Patricia Arquette (50); Michelle Pfeiffer (60); Stevie Nicks (70); Jerry West (80)
(9) Last evening's IEEE Central-Coast Section Meeting: Held at Upham Hotel near downtown Santa Barbara, the meeting began with drinks and appetizers, and it continued with a sumptuous meal. There was a short after-dinner presentation by Adi Wadaskar, Chair of UCSB's IEEE Student Branch, who described the experience of a few UCSB students in attending IEEE's Rising-Stars Conference in Las Vegas, where they learned about networking and personal branding, which are important requirements in today's job market. The main speaker was Dennis Horwitz, who presented an engineer's view of lightweight backpacking. Using new products and technologies, he has been able to reduce the weight of his gear (including backpack, tarp, ground cover, dishes, utensils, stove, and other necessities) to 10 lbs and the total weight including consumables to under 20 lbs. Some of the accompanying slides provide additional details.

2018/05/08 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image for Sean Carroll's 'The Big Picture' (1) Book review: Carroll, Sean, The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself, Unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by the author, Penguin Audio, 2016.
[My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads; in extended form]
The title of this book seems at first to be pretentious and overambitious, but Carroll delivers effortlessly on its promise. At the physical level, the entire universe is composed of atoms, themselves formed of sub-atomic particles. Given the laws of physics, we should be able to determine the next state of the universe from its current state, what LaPlace claimed a "demon" could do, given enough computational resources. And herein lies the paradox: The required computational resources are so immense, that the theoretically possible eventuality is unlikely to materialize.
A recurring theme in this book is that we need models at multiple levels of abstraction to make sense of the world around us and to think/talk about it. Trouble arises when we mix these levels and start talking about several of them at once. For example, in the morning, we may go to our clothes closet and "choose" what to wear to work. We would get in trouble if we simultaneously think about that "decision" at the atomic level.
In a similar vein, we can talk about a gas in terms of the atoms comprising it or we can resort to high-level "emergent" properties such as temperature, pressure, and density. These emergent properties allow us to talk about gases, without dealing with the enormous complexity we would encounter in an atomic-level model. It is in the same sense that talking about emotions, moral values, and free will makes sense, despite the fact that everything is essentially pre-determined. Pascal famously said that what seems like a human-being's free will is really God's will, manifesting itself in our decisions. Modern science has replaced "God" in Pascal's formulation with "physics" or "nature."
Carroll, recognized as one of the greatest humanist thinkers of his generation, discusses a wide range of topics in terms of three key concepts of entropy, complexity, and time-arrow, as he takes the reader/listener on a fantastic journey through all that is known about our physical world and spiritual existence.
Here is Carroll's 63-minute book talk at Google.
(2) [Riddle] Question: Why do people hate elevator music? Answer: Because even though it's uplifting at first, it brings you down in the end.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Trump orders US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and authorizes the reimposing of sanctions.
- Company tied to a Russian oligarch deposited $500K in the account used to pay off Stormy Daniels.
- John McCain makes it clear that he does not want Trump at his funeral.
- Salaries of college/university employees. [Chart]
- The May 2018 issue of E&T magazine covers the crisis of trust in technology in the wake of data abuse.
- Cartoon of the day: All of Trump's tweets organized by subject matter, in a boxed set! [Image]
(4) "All in this Together: Racial Justice and Democracy in the 21st Century": This lecture by Rinku Sen is part of the program marking the 30th anniversary of UCSB's Multicultural Center; May 15, 6:00 PM, MCC Theater.

2018/05/07 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) "Food and Drink in Ancient Iran": A one-day symposium at UC Irvine, Tuesday, May 15, 2018, 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM.
(2) New York State Attorney General, a staunch Trump opponent who had portrayed himself as a champion of the #MeToo movement, resigns amid allegations of violence against women and sexual misconduct.
(3) This professor has a cure for the sociopolitical mess we are in: Focus on positive feelings and words that describe them, instead of endlessly repeating negative terms such as "anxiety" or "stress"!
(4) Comedy news beats the real news in clarity: A closer look at Rudy Giuliani's lies and missteps since he started representing Donald Trump, from funny-men Seth Myers and Stephen Colbert.
(5) Math problem: You have been put in charge of building a spherical dome to house a human colony on Mars. The terrain does not allow the circular base of the dome to be larger than 300 m in diameter. What is the required minimum height, if the dome built on flat surface is to hold 5 million cubic meters of breathable air?
(6) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Impressive footage of lava flows on Hawaii's Big Island. [Lava swallows a car]
- Union workers' strike may cripple University of California campuses, beginning today. [Strikers at UCSB]
- Quote of the day: "You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream." ~ C. S. Lewis
- Einstein wants you to help spread the gospel of science in K-12 classes. [Sign on UCSB campus]
- Interesting scientific details about the design of the font used in standard eye charts. [Video]
- Digital art: An immersive exhibition in Paris. [Video]
- Cartoon of the day: "My insurance doesn't cover pre-historic conditions." [Image]
- Creating works of art out of aluminum cans, using nothing but fingers. [Video]
(7) Book introductions: Four recent books about women in computing, their contributions, and the challenges they face. Women Codebreakers at Bletchley Park (Kerry Howard); Code Girls (Liza Mundy); The Women Who Smashed Codes (Jason Fagone); Brotopia (Emily Chang) [From Moshe Vardi's CACM column, May 2018]

2018/05/05 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Poorly worded memorial message on a bench Cat covers up girl's portrait Cartoon: The dinosaurs' last supper (1) Funny and/or interesting images: [Left] This poorly worded memorial message on a bench was intended to honor a dog lover! [Center] Cat covers up girl's portrait. [Right] The dinosaurs' last supper.
(2) In the school of life, everyone's a teacher. If you are willing to learn, everyone has something to teach you. Happy Teachers' Day!
(3) "Active Measures": This is the title of the first feature-length documentary about the Trump-Russia connection. It premiers at Toronto's Hot Docs Film Festival this week. This Vanity Fair story is comprehensive and spells out the details of how the film came about and what it covers. Bear in mind, though, that the publication is staunchly anti-Trump. Other sources describe the film in less favorable terms.
(4) Book introduction: Amanda Carpenter's just-released book, Gaslighting America: Why We Love It When Trump Lies to Us, exposes Trump's methods to remain in the media spotlight by creating one false story after another. Opponents revel in the lies, because they think each new lie will be Trump's undoing. Meanwhile, Trump moves from one lie to the next, before we have had a chance to absorb, analyze, understand, and counter the narrative.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Mag.-6.9 quake, strongest in 40 years, and volcanic eruption lead to evacuations on Hawaii's Big Island.
- Macron's "Make Our Planet Great Again" program chooses six more US scientists.
- Extreme hamocking in Shanghai, China. [Photo]
- Cartoon of the day: Food truck operator takes a cue from the air travel industry. [Image]
- The war of a single space vs. two spaces after a period continues: Science intervenes.
- Persian poetry: A wonderful verse from the beloved Azeri poet Shahriar: Facebook post.
(6) [Technology] Vatican's secret archives are being made accessible through AI: Conventional character recognition systems for converting text to digitally coded form do not work with handwritten script, so new methods are being developed for the said conversion by focusing on pen strokes, rather than letters.
(7) [Puzzle] What is the only number formed by a string of 10 digits in which the first digit equals the number of 0s in the string, the second digit indicates the number of 1s, the third digit is the number of 2s, and so on? Digit repetition is allowed.
(8) "What Helps Students Learn to Grapple with Complex Scientific Dilemmas": This was the title of a May 3 talk by UC Berkeley Professor of Education Marcia C. Linn, who spoke under the auspices of UCSB's Annual Lecture on Science Education. The focus of the talk was on understanding how middle-school students revise scientific hypotheses when they lead to contradictions and how to help them along with the revision process. Key issues were introduced through examples and reinforced by audience participation in mini-conferences. The WISE (Web-based Inquiry Science Environment) modeling tool was introduced and briefly discussed.

2018/05/03 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photoshopped image of Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un hand in hand (1) Will we see Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un hand in hand soon? If so, what will become of the oppressed and starving North Korean people?
(2) On World Press Freedom Day, let's remember all journalists who are imprisoned in Iran, Turkey, and elsewhere in the world. [And those being bullied in the US!]
(3) It's illegal to yell "fire" in a crowded library. You have to go whisper it to each person individually. For more humorous "facts" about the library, see this New Yorker piece.
(4) [Art] The Community Arts Music Association (CAMA) kicks of its centennial celebrations with a concert by UCSB students and faculty (including flutist Jill Felber, cellist Jennifer Kloetzel, and pianist Robert Koenig) at Santa Barbara's Trinity Epicopal Church, 1500 State Street, on Sunday, May 6, 2018, beginning at 4:00 PM.
(5) Trump is said to be repeating one of key mistakes of the Great Depression: More than 1100 economists, including 14 Nobel laureates, urge Trump to reverse course on recent trade measures.
(6) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Fierce dust storms and thundershowers kill 90+ in the north of India, injuring many more.
- Putin is trying to block Telegram, a secure messaging/blogging platform used by 15+ million Russians.
- Ukraine stopped cooperating with the US Russia probe after Trump gave them weapons.
- Just published is a treatise on parallel universes that Stephen Hawking completed days before his death.
- Donald Trump has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by Luke Messer and 17 other House members.
- [Humor] What Trump's acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize might look like!
(7) World's most advanced digital society: Estonia has transformed itself from a backward part of the Soviet Union to an EU and NATO member-country that leads the world in e-government. The country has declared access to the Internet a social right. It even grants e-residency to citizens of other countries, which would allow them to form companies and do business in Estonia, with full access to government services. Everything can be done on-line. For example, at tax time, the government pre-fills the required forms with information that it has, which allows citizens to go on-line and file their taxes with a quick check of the information already there and supplying a few missing entries. Estonia backs up its data in digital embassies in other countries via blockchain technology, which allows it to avoid cyber-attacks of the kind it experienced, likely from Russia, in 2007. An impressive part of this PBS Newshour story on Estonia is the number of women experts who explain the various aspects of their e-government.
(8) A con-man's scramble: Through his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Trump admits that he repaid Michael Cohen for the $130,000 hush money he paid to Stormy Daniels. Why the admission, and why now? Because not having repaid Cohen puts him in violation of campaign laws, whereas paying him back turns the matter into a personal indiscretion, not a criminal violation. However, experts are saying that the manner in which the money was paid back (pretending that it was for legal services rendered by Cohen) amounts to money laundering, a crime.

2018/05/02 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Teacher of the Year at the White House (1) Teacher of the Year, honored at the White House, lets her buttons do the talkine.
(2) Buddha on anger: "Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned."
(3) US President Andrew Jackson procrastination: "There is no pleasure in having nothing to do; the fun is having lots to do and not doing it."
(4) Superbrain yoga: I am usually skeptical about these kinds of claims on improving mental powers, but decided to share this video, just in case. Judge for yourself. [4-minute video]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- John Kelly's job in jeopardy, after he joins the growing list of those calling Trump an idiot.
- Jared Kushner's demise has been predicted many times before, but he may be on his way out for real.
- No one in Trump's Russia-probe legal team has the security clearance needed to negotiate with Mueller.
- Former Mueller assistant says grammatical errors indicate that the leaked questions come from Trump.
- Trump's former doctor turns on him: Claims Trump dictated flattering health letter.
- Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif: What Baha'i prisoners? [Cartoon] [Iranwire story]
- Iran is destroying mass graves from the 1988 extra-judicial political executions.
- Iran's judiciary bans Telegram: Many are using the messaging app via anti-filtering software.
- With blacks like Kanye, stating that slavery was a choice, who needs White Supremacists?
- "Upper classes are a nation's past; the middle class is its future." ~ Author Ayn Rand [1905-1982]
(6) [Technology] Ocean farming: Seaweed provides plenty of food and jobs, while helping clean up our oceans. In a scheme known as vertical ocean farming, seaweed farming is combined with growing scallops, mussels, oysters, and other sea creatures at various depths, allowing efficient food production in small ocean plots.
(7) [Science] CRISPR, the gene-editing tool that is revolutionizing biomedical research: We are getting closer to the day when a wide array of ailments can be cured by gene modification, according to this very informative report from "60 Minutes."
(8) Final thought for the day: People put a lot of trust in engineers. Ten most terrifying skywalks in the world. [Since the preceding video was made, the Chongqing Skywalk has opened in China.

2018/04/30 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Teens hanging out, unknown location, 1950s Las Vegas, 1940 vs. 2017 Only in Ireland, 1950s (1) History in pictures: [Left] Teens hanging out, unknown location, 1950s. [Center] Las Vegas, 1940 vs. 2017. [Right] Only in Ireland, 1950s.
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Israel claims it has snatched an archive of documents on Iran's nuclear-bomb program from a secret facility.
- Not fake news: The Doppler effect changes the perceived color when an object moves at super-high speed.
- The Weather Channel has launched Project Trumpmore to carve Trump's face onto a melting iceberg.
- Brazilian Rodrigo Koxa sets world record for riding an 80-foot monster wave.
- Good response to those who think women accuse men of sexual misconduct to seek fame. [Tweet]
- Little Rocket Man is now a Great Honorable Man. Please erase all previous tweets that refer to LRM.
(3) How can anyone suggest a Peace Prize for a boor who threatened North Korea with "fire and fury," dismissed a nuclear treaty that the entire world supports, vilified refugees from war-torn regions, and sabotaged the hopes for Arab-Israeli reconciliation?
(4) Not an exact quote: Republicans study and pass bills like the rest of us read and accept updated terms and conditions on iTunes. ~ Comedian Seth Myers, speaking at an Obama-era White House Correspondents Dinner [I do miss the smart comedy of the past]
(5) "Are Friends Electric: Our Future Lives with Robots": This was the title of a fascinating talk by Tony Prescott (Professor of Cognitive Robotics, U. Sheffield), constituting the last of three talks he delivered at UCSB. I reported on the first talk, entitled "Understanding the Brain by Building Robots," on April 16. I missed the second talk, entitled "How Robots Could Change Our View of the Human," on April 23, because it overlapped with a higher-priority talk for me. The accompanying slides tell much of the story of today's talk. Ontologically, robots can be described as tools (mere machines) or more than machines. Psychologically, we can view them as tools/machines or see them as more than machines. This dichotomy creates a four-way categorization, shown in one of the slides. Today's talk was concerned with the quadrant in which robots are described as machines but are seen as more than machines. In other words, Professor Prescott is of the opinion that even though robots are machines, we can become attached to them and to learn to view them as companions or helpers. Consider for example a bomb-disposal robot, used during the Iraq war, which saved many lives and was honored with a 21-gun salute and a Purple Heart Medal when it "died." Experiments have shown that people get upset when they see a robot being abused. Currently, loneliness is a major epidemic in our world, a condition that is known to contribute to increased mortality rate. Robots can help alleviate this condition, given that we are quite open to viewing robots as companions or even friends. Many people give their robots names, even if the robot is a mere vacuum cleaner. Having a companion robot essentially serves the same purpose as having a companion pet animal. Given the prominent role of robots in future societies, many groups are working on establishing guidelines and setting limits on what is or isn't appropriate. A notable example arises in the case of sex robots, when we veer into the domain of child sex. I enjoyed this talk immensely!

2018/04/28 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The first ever issue of Vogue magazine, 1892 Vintage soda-can designs J. R. R. Tolkien's original first page for 'Lord of the Rings,' 1937 (1) History in pictures: [Left] The first ever issue of Vogue magazine, 1892. [Center] Vintage soda-can designs. [Right] J. R. R. Tolkien's original first page for Lord of the Rings, 1937.
(2) Trump has hurt the North American bid to host the 2026 World Cup soccer tournament in Canada, Mexico, and the US: By threatening countries that vote against the bid, he violated FIFA's rules against political interference. It is soccer federations that vote, not countries, so the threat doesn't even make sense.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Bill Cosby has been convicted of indecent assault. Which makes me wonder: What is decent assault?
- James Comey is hated by Clinton and Trump supporters alike. So, who is buying his best-selling book?
- On music: "Music is art that goes through the ears straight to the heart." ~ Anonymous
- Titanic, in the age of modern, single women. [Image]
- Cartoon of the day: The fourth "R": Readin', 'Ritin', 'Rithmetic, Returnin' fire. {Image]
- Today, Santa Barbara celebrated 236 years of history by reenacting its Founding Ceremony of 1782.
Cover image for Carly Simon's 'Boys in the Trees' (4) Book review: Simon, Carly, Boys in the Trees: A Memoir, unabridged audiobook, read by the author, Macmillan Audio, 2015.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This is one of the most honest and charming memoirs I have read in a long time. Simon discusses both her professional life and personal challenges, including her stuttering, flings with several rock/movie stars, and her difficult marriage to James Taylor, another music giant of the 1970s. Simon and Taylor were part of the drug culture of the 1960s, but they were eventually able to kick the habit.
The blurb on the back of the CD box describes Simon as "rock star, poet, feminist icon, seductress, survivor," and we see why she deserves all these accolades as she takes us along for a journey from her childhood to the present.
The rock-star part is best known, given her memorable songs and her powerful, husky voice. The poet part manifests itself not just in her song lyrics, but also in the lyrical, absorbing prose of this book. The feminist-icon part is the weakest characterization (more on this later). The seductress part shows up in the form of several famous rock/movie stars who pursued her; the list includes Warren Beatty, Mick Jagger, and, of course, her husband of 11 years, James Taylor.
The survivor part is really the most telling aspect of this memoir. Simon struggled with depression, which included anxiety attacks and self-destructive behavior. Despite her stunning looks and musical talent, Simon suffered from self-doubt and considered herself more suitable to serving and satisfying men. Yet she transformed herself into a feminist icon later in life. She seemingly fell for any man who showed some interest in her. She felt attracted to other men, even after she married James Taylor, whom she loved deeply, but she says she did not act on the urges.
The audiobook includes original music, specially composed for the audio program. In my opinion, the music distracts more from the audiobook's charm than add to it, although the parts where Simon sings fragments of her own songs, with lyrics that are related to the points she is making, do add value.

2018/04/27 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Banff, Alberta, Canada, 1962 (photo by Walter Reed) Building of the Atomium in Brussels for the 1958 World Fair (phot by Dolf Kruger) NYC water fountain, 1930s (1) History in pictures: [Left] Banff, Alberta, Canada, 1962 (photo by Walter Reed). [Center] Building of the Atomium in Brussels for the 1958 World Fair (phot by Dolf Kruger). [Right] NYC water fountain, 1930s.
(2) Quote of the day: "Every man is dishonest who lives upon the labor of others, no matter if he occupies a throne." ~ Robert G. Ingersoll
(3) She persisted: Honoring the woman who tirelessly pursued the just-captured "Golden State" killer and wrote a book about the horrible mass-murderer and mass-rapist, but did not live to see him captured.
(4) Ethical and law-enforcement implications of ancestry DNA analysis: In what appears to be a first in the US, "The Golden State" killer was caught by having his DNA samples matched against databases of ancestry DNA analysis companies, which led to the identification of a few relatives. This is a breakthrough and also quite scary in terms of its ethical and privacy implications. I hope we see some open discussion on these issues.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Historic accord between North Korea and South Korea officially ends the 65-year Korean War.
- Merkel endured Trump's rants during a joint news conference, but her facial expressions screamed "OMG"!
- Japan builds hundreds of miles of concrete seawalls to protect coastal areas against tsunamis.
- Cartoon of the day: The president's just-us system. [Image]
- Joke of the day: Representative Luke Messer believes Trump should be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.
- A humorous Persian song from a couple of decades ago about how money reigns supreme in our lives.
- Persian music: Marzieh in concert. This may have been her last live performance. [5-minute video]
(6) Chief-of-Staff John Kelly will be removed as soon as the White House can find him a suitable position that won't embarrass him: Perhaps Veterans Affairs?
(7) Change of guards: Is Emmanuel Macron taking the European leadership staff away from Angela Merkel because a misogynistic Donald Trump likes him better? [Illustration]
(8) Mariachi Aztlan: The highly-skilled and talented University of Texas student group performed in a free concert at Goleta's Isla Vista School this evening. Recording was disallowed, so I post a few photos and some music samples from YouTube. [Playlist] [With Ballet Folklorico] [At Chicago's 2017 Mariachi Festival] Walking back from the concert, I snapped these photos of the nearly-full moon and a planet (Mars?).
(9) Final thoughs for the day: "Money is what you'd get on beautifully without if only other people weren't so crazy about it." ~ Margaret Case Harriman

2018/04/26 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Race of double-decker buses, 1933 Delivering bread in the Irish Civil War, 1920s Women window cleaners, London, 1917 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Race of double-decker buses, 1933. [Center] Delivering bread in the Irish Civil War, 1920s. [Right] Women window cleaners, London, 1917.
(2) Rare photos of an osprey carrying a baby shark, snatched by the bird while it was eating a fish. As a Persian saying goes, "Above each hand, there are many hands."
(3) Quote of the day: "We can choose isolationism, withdrawal and nationalism. This is an option. It can be tempting to us as a temporary remedy to our fears ... But closing the door to the world will not stop the evolution of the world. It will not douse but inflame the fears of our citizens." ~ French President Emmanuel Macron, attacking Trumpism, a day after he and Trump hugged, kissed, held hands, and awkwardly touched each other during a news briefing
(4) Former police officer identified as "The Golden State Killer" and arrested for 40 years of criminal activity, including at least 12 murders and dozens of rapes. A 37-year-old cold double-murder case in my hometown of Goleta, California, is tied by DNA evidence to the captured ex-cop.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is courting American red-necks with this full-page ad in today's Los Angeles Times.
- Eighty-year-old US comedian Bill Cosby's retrial for sexual assault leads to a guilty verdict.
- The wedding season is upon us, according to Santa Barbara Independent! [Images]
- Food tips: Vegetarian mini-pizzas on English muffins; Mixed-greens salad, preparation and result.
- Patriarchy: Age difference of 24 years accepted in the bottom photo but ridiculed in the top one. [Photos]
- Cartoon of the day: "How do you get your child to read books?" [Image]
(6) Time magazine headline: "The Toronto van attack suspect was obsessed with rejection from women. He is not alone among violent men." [Members of the group call themselves "incel," for "involuntarily celibate"]
(7) "Innocent people don't take the Fifth": A compilation of Trump's musings about pleading the Fifth, in the wake of his personal attorney Michael Cohen's exercising this right in the porn actress Stormy Daniels case.
(8) For Persian-speaking readers: An informative essay by Dr. Shokoufeh Taghi about "shah" and many other words used in Persian to refer to the head of state over the centuries, and how some of them found their ways into European languages. Comments on the original Facebook post also contain valuable information.
(9) A final thought: "The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge." ~ Bertrand Russell

2018/04/24 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Flyer for the screening of 'I, Tonya' at UCSB (1) "Script to Screen" program at UCSB's Pollock Theater: Tonight, I attended a screening of the gripping 2017 mockumentary film "I, Tonya." The story, told from the vantage points of several characters, including Harding herself and her abusive husband, happens over four decades, covering figure-skater Tonya Harding's childhood to the present. Margot Robbie, who also co-produced, is magnificent as Tonya, but the film really belongs to Allison Janney, who won a supporting-actress Oscar for portraying Tonya's cruel and abusive mother. The screening was followed by a fascinating discussion with scriptwriter/producer Steven Rogers, who described the film's development, beginning with the initial interviews. He characterized Harding as a poor girl, who had a foul mouth and was unapologetically red-neck. She was at a disadvantage, given the figure-skating world's preference for well-behaved, all-American girls, with supportive families. Her guilt in "the incident" may have been limited, but she never owned up to or apologized for her actions. Rogers wrote the role of Tonya's mother specifically for Janney, which turned out to be an excellent choice. [Images]
(2) Walking towards Pollock Theater for the screening of "I, Tonya," I took a few photos. The UCSB campus is covered with ads for the upcoming student-government elections and, in one part of the lawn to the north of Storke Tower, with reminders of the Armenian genocide.
(3) New Yorker article from December 2017: "Trump appeared at the [civil rights] museum, where he told an invitation-only audience that Martin Luther King, Jr., had been a personal inspiration, just a day after attending a rally, in Florida, where he again endorsed a candidate for the U.S. Senate who thinks that Muslims should not be allowed to serve in Congress, and who recently told an African-American man that America had been 'great' during slavery."
(4) List of children's TV programs in Ghom (humor): There have been suggestions that the city of Ghom, a center of religion and religious studies near Tehran, Iran, should be made into a sovereign country, a la the Vatican. This meme imagines what that new country's children might see on television.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Change of heart: "The little rocket man" is now deemed "very open" and "very honorable"!
- Many more Southwest flights are cancelled, as engine inspections continue.
- Mummified body found near a burial site ordered razed in 1979 Iran is believed to be that of Reza Shah.
- Amazon to deliver packages to car trunks: Next comes delivery of edibles directly to your mouth!
- Quote of the day: "Anger is a wind which blows out the lamp of mind." ~ Robert G. Ingersoll
- Dolores Leis Antelo, a Trump look-alike, lives in Nanton, La Coruna, northeastern Spain.
- You have seen birds diving to catch fish: Now watch fish rising to hunt birds.
- Robotic chefs are on the way: Sony and Carnegie Mellon University partner to develop cooking robots.
- Borowitz Report: "Bezos says that when pee tape is released, it will be free for all Amazon Prime members."
- Seth Meyer's "Closer Look" at the legal troubles facing Trump and his allies and appointees.
(6) The Toronto mass killer, who drove a van into a crowd of pedestrians, is linked to the Santa Barbara (Isla Vista) mass shooter, who in 2014 killed 6, and appears to have the same misogynistic tendencies.
(7) Book intro: I disagree with law Professor Alan Dershowitz on many issues but find the title of his new book, Trumped Up: How Criminalization of Political Differences Endangers Democracy, refreshing and timely.
(8) [Final thought for the day] Trump's 35% support base: The top 1% or so, who are raking money from tax breaks and laxer regulations, and the ~34% who believe the con-man's promises that after some hardships, they will be much better off.

2018/04/23 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Damascus, Syria, 1940 Gold diggers on the way to Dawson City, 1890s Street styles, 1940s (1) History in pictures: [Left] Damascus, Syria, 1940. [Center] Gold diggers on the way to Dawson City, 1890s. [Right] Street styles, 1940s.
(2) We closed this year's Earth Day, yesterday, with some sober thoughts: Mother Earth is again under siege, after decades of progress in making sure our children enjoy the benefits of clean air and water and can experience the wonders of nature first-hand. Happy Earth Day, and happy activism to protect Mother Earth from shortsighted politicians and businessmen!
(3) Quote of the day: "We go on multiplying our conveniences only to multiply our cares. We increase our possessions only to the enlargement of our anxieties." ~ Anna C. Brackett
(4) Why are some people so excited about North Korea saying it will stop nuclear testing? They offer no promises about stopping nuclear development or missiles development/testing! Stopping nuclear testing means they are already confident about the bomb part of their system working.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- My speech at my uncle Nourollan (Nouri) Parhami's memorial gathering of yesterday. [Image]
- Some "fine" Neo-Nazis with a glittering swastika, celebrated Hitler's birthday in Georgia. [Daily Mail images]
- Van intentionally plows into pedestrians, killing 10 and injuring 15 in Toronto, Canada.
- Cartoon of the day: The President's legal team arrives at the White House. [Image]
- The fourth-grader in the White House is every English teacher's nightmare. HERE IS WHY.
(6) Sean Hannity, a staunch anti-welfare commentator, has been a major beneficiary of HUD mortgage-loan guarantees, a form of government handout.
(7) Armenian prime minister resigns after protests against his illegal power grab: He was appointed PM after serving two five-year terms as president.
(8) "Data Management on Non-Volatile Memory": This was the title of a UCSB talk this afternoon by Joy Arulraj of CMU. In a case of embarrassment of riches, I had to forego attending another interesting talk entitled "How Robots Could Change Our View of the Human" by Tony Prescott, which overlapped with the first one. Emerging non-volatile memory (NVM) technologies are revolutionizing data storage and processing, because they do not lose data when the power source is disrupted. They sit between DRAM and mass storage in terns of speed and cost, making it possible to imagine structurally and logically much simpler systems that use only one kind of memory, rather than a hierarchy of different kinds. NVMs invalidate all major assumptions in the design of current database management systems, which include a great deal of complexity to bridge the gap between DRAM's high speed, high cost, and volatility and disk/SSD's high latency, low cost, and permanence. Adapting existing systems to the availability of non-volatile memory, while possible and offering some benefits, does not fully exploit the strengths of the new technologies, thus pointing the way to complete redesign of database management systems from scratch. Mr. Aluraj discussed some of his work on designing and evaluating DBMSs that take advantage of emerging NVM technologies, particularly the ones being developed by Intel. [Slides]

2018/04/21 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Santa Barbara Earth Day logo (1) Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival: Held over the 4/21-22 weekend at Alameda Park, this year's event is more extensive than usual. In particular, the green vehicles exhibit has many more entries. [11 photos]
Many environmental activists and organizations are present at the festival, with exhibits such as bike-powered smoothie machine, informational posters, sign-up sheets, and a sponsored talent stage. [11 photos]
The festival also features food, drinks, and recreational activities. [12 photos] [Bonus photo of a church across the street from Alameda Park]
(2) Quote of the day: "Religion's domination over science and thought in Iran is reminiscent of the Middle Ages." ~ Narges Mohammadi, recipient of APS's 2018 Andrei Sakharov Prize [Award image]
(3) The story of Elizabeth Holmes: She dropped out of Stanford to found Theranos based on new blood-testing technology and became the youngest female self-made billionaire, before her company crashed due to inaccurate test results.
(4) A thoughtful review of James Comey's blockbuster book, A Higher Loyalty: Former Clinton aide Jennifer Palmieri praises Comey's character, but is puzzled by his inconsistent justifications for actions he took during the 2016 election, arising from his unwillingness to explicitly own up to helping Trump win.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Advice to people living in the US: Don't eat any romaine lettuce until further notice.
- Trump attacks Comey in series of typo-ridden tweets, referring to Mueller as "Special Council." [Images]
- A solo Melania Trump is all smiles at the funeral of former First Lady/Mom Barbara Bush.
- Rudy Giuliani may be a witness in the Russia probe, complicating his role as a Trump attorney.
- Actress who belongs to a shady self-help group for women is charged with sex trafficking.
- In Iran, workplace safety is taken very seriously. [Funny photo]
- The Kamkar family matriarch with 4 of her 8 children, all of whom are accomplished artists. [Photo]
- Q: What do the top three best-selling books of 2018 (so far) have in common? A: They are all about Trump.
- Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia are Middle East's top three countries for executions. [Cartoon from Iranwire]
- Jane Fonda is perhaps not a perfect role model, but here she gives some sage advice. [3-minute video]
- Were we humans the first civilization on Earth? Will we be the last?
- There is no such thing as a bad emotion: All emotions are natural parts of life. [2-minute video]
(6) Humor: Mark Zuckerberg cannot easily analyze Facebook likes by Iranian users and sell the resulting information. Likes by Iranians can have many different meanings, besides actual approval of the content. We like friends' posts, whether or not we agree with the content. We like posts by lonely individuals who otherwise don't garner any likes. We like comments by warring parties to stoke the fire of discord. We like posts by beautiful women, without bothering to read them. [2-minute video]
(7) Santa Barbara Public Market: Established several years ago in the space formerly occupied by a Vons supermarket to the south of Arlington Theater, the market hosts a collection of quaint cafes, bakeries, snack shops, and bars. [6 photos]

2018/04/20 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Manhattan telephone wires, 1887 A DC-4 passenger plane flying over midtown Manhattan, 1939 New York City rush hour, 1909 (1) Historical photos of New York City: [Left] Manhattan telephone wires, 1887. [Center] A DC-4 passenger plane flying over midtown Manhattan, 1939. [Right] New York City rush hour, 1909.
(2) The Democrats file a lawsuit against the Trump campaign, Russia, and Wikileaks for conspiracy to damage the Clinton campaign: Several top Trump officials, current and former, are named in the lawsuit.
(3) Here's a liar who seems to think he's living in the Middle Ages, when there was no record of one's prior musings. Donald Trump, in 2014: "If I decide to run for office, I'll produce my tax returns, absolutely, and I would love to do that." [Meme]
(4) US State Department issues its annual assessment of human rights in the world. The usual suspects (Russia, China, Syria, Iran, North Korea) are all there, but Saudi Arabia is spared a harsh assessment, despite atrocities in Yemen and at home.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- North Korea indicates that it will suspend nuclear missiles tests and close its nuclear test site.
- Rudy Giuliani is in for major disappointment: He hopes to end the Mueller probe in a week or two.
- The very predictable Trump tweet-storm has begun: Flynn's life destroyed, Comey is getting rich!
- Redacted forms of James Comey's released memos are now available on-line.
- Senator Tammy Duckworth makes history by bringing baby daughter to the Senate floor.
- The time has come to test Michael Cohen's assertion that he would take a bullet for trump!
- Iran's morality police beats up a woman whose hijab does not meet with their approval.
- Cartoon of the day: Enough is enough. [National School Walkout Day] [Image]
(6) Dilbert's pointy-hair boss tries to get on the blockchain bandwagon: "Why can't we 3-D print a blockchain and HTML it into a bitcoin?" [Image]
(7) One more lie exposed: Trump's claim to Comey that he did not spend a night in Moscow during his 2013 trip for the Miss Universe pageant is contradicted by evidence, showing that Trump arrived in Moscow on November 8, 2013, spent the night at the Ritz Carlton Hotel, and didn't leave the city until after the pageant was finished late on the following day.
(8) I am surprised that Michael Cohen walks on the streets nonchalantly and goes to cafes: Trump allies have described him as a "ticking time-bomb," which makes him a target for deranged, gun-totting Trump supporters.
(9) This is how I will spend part of tomorrow in downtown, Santa Barbara: Earth Day Festival, Saturday and Sunday, April 21-22, 2018, starting at 11:00 AM, Alameda Park.

2018/04/19 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A 19-year-old Grace Kelly, 1949 A 16-year-old Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale, holding Toto, 1939 An 18-year-old Robin Williams as a high school senior, 1969 (1) History in pictures: [Left] A 19-year-old Grace Kelly, 1949. [Center] A 16-year-old Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale, holding Toto, 1939. [Right] An 18-year-old Robin Williams as a high school senior, 1969.
(2) Brilliant comedy: Trevor Noah likens Sean Hannity's explanation of his relationship with Michael Cohen to quickly-recited disclaimers and lists of side effects in pharmaceutical ads.
(3) Recommended reading for Melania Trump: Author Catenya McHenry's Married to a Narcissist: Enduring the Struggle and Finding You Again [Self-published on Amazon]
(4) The Southwest Airlines plane that suffered an engine fire was piloted by a female former navy fighter pilot, whose nerves of steel are credited with the safe landing.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Cuba without a Castro: A revolutionary dynasty ends with Raul Castro deciding to step down.
- Trump is not attacking Comey for what he has written but for what he knows and cannot disclose now.
- Trump has remained silent on Barbara Bush's passing, but his attack dogs are doing his bidding for him.
- Another deranged right-winger: Alex Jones calls the Sandy Hook massacre a hoax.
- Puerto Rico plunges into darkness in its worst blackout since Hurricane Maria.
- Some Airbus planes are being fitted with bunk beds, like those on sleeper trains, in their cargo holds.
- One of the 9/11 planners, a Syrian-born German citizen, has been arrested by the Kurds in Syria.
- Experiencing a dry early spring: April showers seem to have been rescheduled for May in my SoCal area!
(6) Recycled quote of the day (fron 8 years ago): "Art for the sake of truth, for the sake of what is beautiful and good—that is the creed I seek." ~ George Sand [pseudonym of Amantine Aurore Lucile Dupin, 1804-1876, the first French female novelist to gain a major reputation]
(7) Who are these people? Ted Cruz offers effusive praise to a man who called his dad a criminal, his wife ugly, and him an adulterer.
(8) Sean Hannity in the spotlight: Tabloids and other media are having a field day with the self-righteous Sean Hannity over his lack of transparency. [Front page of Daily News]
(9) Final thought for the day: If you suggest improvements to arrogant or self-doubting people, you will only create enemies for yourself. Make suggestions for improvement to humble, self-confident people, and you will gain lifelong friends.

2018/04/17 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photo of T-shirt: Octopi Photo of T-shirt: Intelligence defined Photo of T-shirt: Why I became a professor (1) Nerdy T-shirt designs: [Left] Octopi [Center] Intelligence defined. [Right] Why I became a professor.
(2) Do you constantly complain about leg room on airplanes? Well, that issue may disappear, as you will be essentially standing during your flight! Airlines are experimenting with "saddle seats" to cram more passengers in economy. Next, will come hooks to hang you from the cabin ceiling, as in slaughterhouses!
(3) Use of fur in fashion may be ending soon: Activists have increased awareness, and advances in materials research are providing many ethical alternatives to fur.
(4) Our planet contains diamonds from a lost planet of the early Solar System: Terrestrial planets of the early solar system (Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars) were formed by gradual merger of many proto-planets, ranging in size from as small as our moon to as big as Mars, in a series of high-energy impacts. An 80-ton asteroid, which exploded upon entering the Earth's atmosphere in 2008, showering our planet with hundreds of small meteorites, brought us some material from those proto-planets.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Barbara Pierce Bush [1925-2018]: Former First Lady and First Mom. RIP.
- Cal Poly's entire Greek life has been suspended following acts of racial insensitivity at Lambda Chi Alpha.
- Israeli intelligence takes issue with Trump's characterization of the Syria air attack as a success.
- Sketch of the man Stormy Daniels says threatened her is released and $100K reward announced.
(6) Donald Trump and Japan's Shinzo Abe will try to forget about scandals at home, when they meet at Mar-a-Lago: Meanwhile, aides are reportedly worried about Trump watching too much TV and tweeting while at Mar-a-Lago for 5 days, necessitating much clean-up duties.
(7) Trump campaign funds were used to pay legal fees for Trump, Michael Cohen, Donald Trump Jr., and former bodyguard Keith Schiller. In all, 20% of the campaign's funds were spent on legal fees, parts of which have raised eyebrows.
(8) On environmental impacts of Santa Barbara's Thomas Fire: Today's UCSB Library lecture in the Pacific Views series, "Oceanography in the Thomas Fire: Preliminary Results from a Graduate Student Led Expedition Aboard R/V Sally Ride," featured graduate students Kelsey Bisson (Geography) and Eleanor Arrington (Earth Science), who reviewed the impact of massive amounts of ash entering the ocean after the largest fire in California's history. A previously-planned expedition, for which they had done extensive fund-raising to pay for the vessel and research equipment, took on a new meaning when Thomas Fire broke out and provided them with an opportunity to track the effects of ash in real time. Ash which is directly deposited on the ocean is different from ash that is carried to the ocean by freshwater flow. The study reported in this talk helps us understand the difference. These photos show the speakers and parts of their story, as reflected in several of the presentation slides. Follow-up studies are needed to determine the longer-term effects. One interesting anecdote from the talk was the observation that on world maps, we often see differences between various types of land, such as deserts, mountains, green plains, and so on, while oceans are usually depicted as featureless blue areas. This 3-minute NASA video, which was shown by the speakers, impresses upon us the fact that oceans are alive and constantly evolving, aided by numerous currents.
(9) "Drop Dead Gorgeous": This is the title of a 1999 comedy film which was screened tonight at Pollock Theater as part of UCSB's spring quarter "Women in Comedy" series. Upon its release, the film was a flop, both financially and critically, but has since become a cult classic. Some of the antics (such as people literally dropping dead of various causes) and politically incorrect humor in this mocumentary about a beauty pageant in a small Minnesota town are frowned upon today. The screening was followed by a discussion between moderator Patrice Petro (Professor of Film and Media Studies) and Mindy Sterling (one of the film's stars and best known for portraying the Nazi lady in the Austin Powers films). The film's cast (see one of these images) includes both established pros and young actresses who went on to become major movie stars.

2018/04/16 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Flower grows undisturbed, after volcanic eruption covers everything with ash Cherry blossoms, across from Jefferson Memorial, Washington, DC Super-colorful grapes (1) The amazing nature: [Left] Flower grows undisturbed, after volcanic eruption covers everything with ash. [Center] Cherry blossoms, across from Jefferson Memorial, Washington, DC. [Right] Super-colorful grapes.
(2) A photo by Iranian photographer Ahmad Nateghi and the bronze statue based on it document Saddam Hussein's chemical attack against Iraqi Kurds in Halabja on March 16, 1988, during the closing days of the Iran-Iraq war. [Images and Persian post]
(3) Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller, as Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Trump attorney Michael Cohen, revived an iconic scene from "Meet the Parents" for their SNL cold-open sketch last night.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Comey may have called Trump "morally unfit" to lead, but RNC Chairwoman sees him as a moral leader.
- Effects of Trump tweets on Boeing and Amazon stock prices were temporary. [Source: Time magazine]
- Barbara Bush, 92, is seriously ill, but she has decided against seeking further treatments.
- A Chinese baby is born from a frozen embryo, four years after his parents died.
- A 45-m asteroid came alarmingly close to Earth (less than 200,000 km) only hours after it was spotted.
- Anon. quote: "When you're happy, you enjoy the music, but when you're sad, you understand the lyrics."
(5) This largest-ever Lego replica of Titanic contains 56,000 Lego pieces and was built in 700 hours, over 11 months, by a 10-year-old boy from Reykjavik, Iceland, who is on the autism spectrum.
(6) New developments in the Michael Cohen case: Trump was denied the right to view seized documents and to decide what should be protected under the attorney-client privilege. Meanwhile, Sean Hannity of Fox News was revealed to be a client of Cohen.
(7) Quote of the day (from today's UCSB lecture, described in the next entry): "As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being." ~ Carl Jung
(8) "Understanding the Brain by Building Robots": This was the title of an interesting talk this afternoon by Tony Prescott (Professor of Cognitive Robotics, U. Sheffield), who does both state-of-the-art research and writes pieces of general interest about artificial intelligence and robotics for "The Conversation."
Prescott will give two more lectures, while at UCSB as a Fellow of Sage Center for the Study of the Mind.
- Monday, April 23, 4:00 PM, Psych 1312: "How Robots Could Change Our View of the Human"
- Monday, April 30, 4:00 PM, Psych 1312: "Are Friends Electric? Our Future Lives with Robots and AI"
Professor Prescott described his area of research as "synthetic psychology," where theories are developed and verified by building actual systems. His career choice was influenced by two books he read as a young man: Jung's Memories, Dreams, Reflections and Braitenberg's Vehicles: Experiments in Synthetic Psychology.
In today's lecture, Prescott described his work on robotics, including robotic rats he helped build and experiments performed by various teams on how whiskers are used for sensing. Here are two links if you are curious about the subject. In the first one, a 6-minute video, Prescott describes his research on robotics and rat whiskers. The second one, an article about the machanics of whiskers, which includes a 6-minute video, describes research on rat whiskers from another research team. [A few slides from the talk]

2018/04/15 (Sunday): To make a dent in my backlog of book reviews, I present two of them today.
Cover image for Michel Wolff's 'Fire and Fury' (1) Book review: Wolff, Micheal, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Holter Graham, Macmillan Audio, 2017.
[My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This book has been criticized for its gossipy tone and inaccuracies. In fact, I found it quite enlightening and, having listened to it with a dose of skepticism, came away with a clearer understanding of the current US administration's mode of operation. The early chapters sounded quite convincing, while the chapters near the end (culminating in the firing of Steve Bannon) came across as more cavalier, perhaps because Wolff had begun losing his access to key players by then.
The early Trump White House was divided into several competing camps. Establishment Republicans were represented by Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer. Right-wing Tea-Party types had Steve Bannon and Steve Miller. Liberals were in the Kushner-Ivanka orbit. Intelligence pragmatists were represented by H. R. McMaster and James Mattis (who was instrumental in the firing of Michael Flynn, despite Trump's own intuition to the contrary). And Trump played these camps against one another, giving each the illusion that they had his ears, aided by yes-men/women such as Hope Hicks, who hid much negative press from him or interpreted the stories in the most benevolent manner possible.
Wolff's characterization of Trump as a conflicted man is also spot-on: He distrusts reporters, while craving attention from them. He wants to be seen as a tough man, who always comes out swinging, yet wanting to be liked and admired. He wants to be viewed as a family man who is proud of his children, and yet does not want to invest any personal resource other than money in raising them. A racist and anti-semite at heart, believing in the superiority of European genes, he also wants to avoid alienating the Jews and others around him.
This book does not rise to the level of Trump Revealed: An American Journey of Ambition, Ego, Money, and Power, by Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher (see my 4-star review on GoodReads), but it has its own charms and insights. Inaccurate and hyped-up statements are there to be sure, yet the book is a good read still.
Cover image of 'Meditation for the Fidgety Skeptic' (2) Book review: Harris, Dan (with Jeff Warren and Carlyle Adler), Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by the author, Random House Audio, 2017. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This is a companion volume to Dan Harris's first book on meditation, 10% Happier, which I reviewed on December 27, 2017, in this blog and on GoodReads.
Early in his career, Harris, an ABC News reporter (with stints on "Nightline," "Good Morning America," and weekend evening news), struggled with self-confidence issues and anxiety attacks, which drove him to drug and alcohol abuse. Subsequently, he discovered that meditation helped him tame the voice in his head that "made [him] behave like a jerk," in his own words.
This new book is a how-to manual and also tells the story of a cross-country quest by Harris and his Canadian friend Jeff Warren, whom he characterizes as "Meditation McGyver," to tackle the myths causing many to conclude that meditation isn't for them. Harris and Warren interacted with diverse groups of people during their trek across 18 states, both teaching their subjects life-changing meditation skills and, in the process, learning a lot from them.
One key reason people do not meditate, or give up soon after starting the practice, is that they aim too high and become disillusioned when they cannot achieve their lofty goals. Harris suggests that you aim very low at the outset, perhaps beginning with as little as a couple of minutes per day, and building up to a level that suits your own needs and schedule, as well as those of the people around you.
Another take-away is that meditation and mindfulness do not have to be practiced while sitting motionless in a quiet environment; it is possible to meditate while you walk or run, if you focus on the moment (e.g., concentrate on the bottom of your feet touching the ground or some other aspect of your physical body), rather than planning your day, listening to music, or day-dreaming.
Throughout, Harris emphasizes that the benefits of meditation and mindfulness have been proven scienfically, citing the results of various research studies and testimonials from people in all walks of life. I found the arguments convincing and the practical suggestions in the book quite useful. You might say that I am no longer a fidgety skeptic!

2018/04/14 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Big Buddha statue in Lantau, Hong Kong London's Natural History Museum Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Barcelona (1) History in pictures: [Left] Big Buddha statue in Lantau, Hong Kong. [Center] London's Natural History Museum. [Right] Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Barcelona.
(2) Russia puzzle pieces are falling into place: Mueller reportedly has evidence that Trump attorney Michael Cohen lied about never having travelled to Prague; the Steele dossier claimed Cohen met a Russian there.
(3) Dictionary Web sites see huge spikes in on-line searches for "slimeball": Trump does have the best words, after all! The rarely-used "kakistocracy," which appeared in a tweet by former CIA Director Brennan, is also looked up by many.
(4) California toy mogul Isaac Larian has submitted a $675M bid to buy 274 Toys R Us stores in the US and another $215M for 82 stores in Canada. He views each Toys R Us store as a neighborhood mini-Disneyland, which is worth saving.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Massive recall of eggs in nine US states due to salmonella contamination fears.
- Cover image of Time magazine, issue of April 23, 2018: It's Stormy in Trumpland! [Image]
- BFFs or a marriage of convenience? UN rejects Russia's resolution to condemn air-strikes on Syria.
- The average American's debt peaks at $134K at ages 35-54 and then drops steadily, reaching $35K at 75+.
- Batman, before he had enough money to buy himself a fancy bat mobile! [Photo]
- The notion of race is made up and has no scientific basis: Special issue of National Geographic on race.
(6) Quote of the day: "If religious instruction were not allowed until the child had attained the age of reason, we would be living in a quite different world." ~ Christopher Hitchens
(7) Goooooal! on Twitter: Soccer lovers may be pleased to learn that Twitter will be broadcasting one MLS soccer match every week, with the first one (CHI v. LA) occurring today at 12:50 PM PT (3:50 PM ET).
(8) Engineering ethics: [The following is adapted from a comment I made on a friend's Facebook post that offered a defense of FB in light of ongoing criticisms about privacy issues, citing many wonderful connections he had made through FB and the joys they had brought him.] For many years now, nearly all engineering and computer science programs in the US have had an ethics requirement, typically satisfied through an upper-division required course. This puts typical college-drop-out entrepreneurs at a disadvantage, because they most often drop out before taking the course. When you build a system that touches people's lives, you have to step very carefully and avoid the rush to getting there first and to reap the financial rewards of market dominance. Facebook certainly affects people's lives much much more than even the most-crossed highway bridge or the tallest skyscraper, whose designers would be subject to ethical and regulatory oversight. Granted, a single course is unlikely to turn an unethical person into an ethical one, but just being exposed to the notions of ethical engineering practice does make a difference.

2018/04/13 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Casual Friday the 13th ('Off the Mark' cartoon, by Mark Parisi) Cartoon: 'Bring me your steel (25% tariff), aluminum (10% tariff), EU cars (5% tariff)' Cartoon: 'The ringing in your ears: I think I can help' (1) Cartoons: [Left] Casual Friday the 13th ("Off the Mark," by Mark Parisi). [Center] "Bring me your steel (25% tariff), aluminum (10% tariff), EU cars (5% tariff)." [Right] "The ringing in your ears: I think I can help."
(2) Automakers may come to regret push for laxer emission targets: If EPA grants their wish, possibly going even further in regulation rollbacks, California and other states may revolt by setting their own emission standards, forcing automakers to build different cars for different markets, thus increasing production costs.
(3) Similarities of today's turmoil with Nixon days keep increasing: Michael Cohen apparently liked to tape his conversations, causing serious worries among Trump allies after the raids on Cohen's office and home.
(4) Trump pardons Scooter Libby, former VP Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff, who was convicted for lying to FBI in 2007: Some believe he is sending a signal to his allies that they will be pardoned if they stand by him.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Syria's chemical-weapons research and storage facilities hit by the US, Britain, and France.
- Another 'family values' politician accused of sexual misconduct: Governor Eric Greitens is urged to resign.
- The Trump-Comey war escalates, after Comey calls Trump a mafia-esque leader who is untethered to truth.
- California company aims to build a solar farm with a battery 3 times as large as Tesla's current-largest.
- Coverage of Iranian women's "White Wednesdays" initiative against mandatory hijab on the world stage.
- Iran censors the logo of Italy's Roma soccer team, which features an ancient she-wolf. [From: Iranwire]
- UNESCO includes traditional dolls of Tajmir, a village in South Khorasan, on its artisanal register.
- Children's rights advocates criticize an Iranian TV show for its portrayal of child marriage.
- Iran tries to enforce an official exchange rate for rial, as the currency's value sinks to new lows.
- So true for many of us on Facebook: Profile picture versus real life! [Photos]
- Top 50 most-popular TED talks: Presented in 50 slides, with notes.
- Sights of Yerevan, Armenia (150-page PDF tourist guide).
- Book introduction, through a friend's review (Los Angeles Review of Books): Negar Djavadi's "Disoriental"
(6) Gubernatorial challenger Cynthia Nixon maintains that time's up for "corporate Democrats," as she mounts a progressive campaign to unseat New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
(7) Kakistocracy: System of government run by the worst, least-qualified, or most unscrupulous citizens. [Word which appeared in a tweet by the former CIA Director John Brennan]
(8) Final thought for the day: You can't shower everyone around you with personal attacks and insults and expect to be treated with due deference and respect.

2018/04/11 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Image of Trump's face inside an apple (1) Adapted from CNN's "this is an apple" ad: Some might try to tell you that this is a president. They might scream "president" over and over again. They might put "PRESIDENT" in all-caps. You might even start to believe that this is a president. But it's not. This is a lying, cheating, narcissistic, tax-evading, amoral real-estate developer.
(2) Quote of the day: "Is it too modern to notice that there is nothing [in the Ten Commandments] about the protection of children from cruelty, nothing about rape, nothing about slavery, and nothing about genocide?" ~ Christopher Hitchens
(3) Word puzzle: What do the following words have in common? [Source: E&T magazine, issue of April 2018]
nuts; responsibility; ironman; jihad; ringfence; miffed; redcoat; macbain
(4) Hedy Lamarr: The April 2018 issue of E&T magazine contains a feature on the glamorous, talented, and great-looking actress who preferred to be remembered as an inventor/scientist. [Images] [On my tweet about this story, commenter Katherine Drew (Assoc. Commissioner, NYC Mayor's Office of Media & Entertainment) pointed to the 2017 documentary film "Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story," which she produced.]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Holocaust survivor likens today's America to Germany between the World Wars, before Nazis took over.
- Full rotation of the Moon, as seen from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. [Video]
- Movement of ocean saltwater caused by tides creates a magnetic field that is mapped for the first time.
- NASA has begun working on the next Mars rover for 2020 launch.
- Yarn-like rechargeable batteries can power future smart fabrics and wearable electronics.
- Riddle: Why is the circle very knowledgeable? Answer: Because it has 360 degrees.
- The non-compliment that sounds like a compliment: You are one in 7 billion!
- Trump's vocabulary is at the 4th-grade level: Here is how he compares with the last 15 US presidents.
(6) UCSB Arts Walk: Much of this collection of free events across the campus overlapped with my class and office hours today. I still managed to catch a few performances and exhibits as I walked home from campus. UCSB Middle East Ensemble performed between Music Department and University Center [2-minute video]. Here are some examples of other events, followed by a photo of the sunset as I arrived home.

2018/04/10 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Elvis and Priscilla about to board a chartered plane after their marriage, 1967 Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, Los Angeles, 1969 Paul Newman and Clint Eastwood, 1972 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Elvis and Priscilla about to board a chartered plane after their marriage, 1967. [Center] Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, Los Angeles, 1969. [Right] Paul Newman and Clint Eastwood, 1972.
(2) Former general responds to Ivanka Trump's tweet about the importance of physical activity and nutrition to children's health.
(3) Walmart, Target, and other retailers have stopped requiring signatures on credit-card slips: New technologies have made such signatures unnecessary and worthless.
(4) Quote of the day: "Trump's lawyer got raided, which means Trump's lawyer's lawyer should probably play it safe and get himself a lawyer." ~ Comedian Stephen Colbert
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Look who's being investigated for bank fraud and campaign finance violations! [Cohen's 2015 tweet]
- Cambridge Analytica accessed not just user profiles but also private messages that FB routinely scanned.
- Extravagant 27-centuries-old gold jewelry pieces were made in Spain, not brought in by Near-Easterners.
- It has cooled off from yesterday's 80s in Goleta, 90s in Santa Barbara: A week of pleasant 70s ahead!
- Ahead of its time: Vertical parking in Chicago, 1936. [Photo]
- Riddle: What costs millions but is nearly worthless? Answer: Second place in an election.
- "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a damn fool." ~ W. C. Fields
(6) Here's Fox News' headline, as Trump plunges into a legal mess of his own making: "Trump Ambushed by Opponents as He Fixes Obama's Foreign Policy Mess." Don't be surprised if he follows the network's advice to fire Mueller and his own Justice Department officials. Government of the rich, for the rich, by Fox News!
(7) Responding to Trump's tweet: The attorney-client privilege is alive and well. What is dead, and has been dead for many decades, is hiding illegal acts behind the privilege.
(8) Iranian physicist, engineer, and human-rights activist Narges Mohammadi, now serving a 16-year term in Tehran's Evin Prison, has been chosen as the recipient of the 2018 Anderi Sakharov Prize by the American Physical Society. The Prize citation reads: "for her leadership in campaigning for peace, justice, and the abolition of the death penalty and for her unwavering efforts to promote the human rights and freedoms of the Iranian people, despite persecution that has forced her to suspend her scientific pursuits and endure lengthy incarceration." [Persian report about the honor]
(9) March for Science: Los Angeles will hold a rally and science expo on Saturday, April 14, 2018, 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM, at Pershing Square. Santa Barbara does not have a separate event this year.

2018/04/09 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Time magazine cover, depicting Saudi prince Mohammad Bin Salman (1) Do you see any charm in this Time magazine cover image of Saudi prince Mohammad Bin Salman to justify the title "Charm Offensive"?
(2) Women making waves: Cindy Hyde-Smith becomes the first woman to represent Mississippi in Congress. Tammy Duckworth becomes the first US Senator to give birth while holding office.
(3) Meme of the day: "Never blame your spouse for his/her faults. Those faults could be the reasons s/he couldn't marry someone better." (These are my own words. The Dalai Lama was busy, but he sent his regards!) [View the Persian version of meme]
(4) Falling out of a Russian plane, shortly after take-off in Yakutak, Russia, was $15 million worth of gold (172 bars, weighing 3.4 tons). [Source: Time magazine, issue of April 2, 2018]
(5) UCSB ranks 24th overall (12th among public universities), 5th (2nd) in materials, and 11th (7th) in chemical engineering, according to the latest US News & World Report ranking of graduate engineering programs.
(6) Quote of the day: "As numb as we have become to the shock and ugh of the Trump presidency, here's one thing we didn't foresee: Stormy Daniels, porn star, director, entrepreneur and fiercely funny tweeter, might just be the woman the resistance needs." ~ Susanna Schrobsdorff, writing in Time magazine, issue of April 9, 2018
(7) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Syrian state news agency reports that missiles have struck an air base in Homs, Syria.
- At least 27, including 23 children aged 4-12, die in India when the bus carrying them plunges 300 feet.
-, a prostitution and sex-trafficking site, has been seized and closed by authorities. [Image]
- #MeToo hits the literature Nobel Prize panel: Three members resign over harassment scandal.
- FBI raids the office of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen on referral from Robert Mueller and seizes documents.
- Paul Ryan will likely retire or be ousted: Republicans are losing record number of seats under his speakership.
- How Fox News is running our country: Sending the military to the US-Mexico border was Fox's idea.
- According to AARP Bulletin, 10% of the ~ $600 billion Medicare expenditures in 2017 was lost to fraud.
- "Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you." ~ Anne Lamott
- Perfectionist's dream: A mathematical possibility but likely unrealizable in practice. [GIF image]
(8) A matter of national honor: The French are distraught over Canada taking top prize in the Camembert category at the 2018 World Championship Cheese Contest. [Source: Time magazine, issue of April 2, 2018]
(9) We had a beautiful summer-like day in Goleta, California, on this Monday, with mid-80s temperatures. Goleta's Devereux Slough continues to be nearly dry. No sign of April showers!

2018/04/08 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image for the book 'Darkest Hour' (1) Book review: McCarten, Anthony, Darkest Hour: How Churchill Brought England Back from the Brink, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by John Lee, Harper Audio, 2017.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Any anthology of great speeches has one entry, if not two or three, from Winston Spencer Churchill. What is remarkable about Churchill is that he wrote three such speeches in the span of four weeks, and he did it by himself, with no help from speech-writers. He was inspired in this remarkable feat by the imminent danger facing England from a potential Nazi invasion. Churchill used his mastery of the English language to craft rousing speeches to rally the people, give them hope, and urge them to fight on.
The history of World War II has been well-documented. British politicians had the habit of keeping meticulous records and diaries, which simplified the historians' job, given multiple contemporaneous accounts to compare. What is special about this atypical WW-II book is its detailed attention to the personal relationships of the main characters and the way in which they tamed their oversize egos to work together to save England during a couple of months in mid-1940.
Churchill came dangerously close to signing a peace treaty with Hitler, facing the heavy decision alone, and he did the right thing at the end. He also flirted with approaching Mussolini to seek his help in crafting a favorable peace agreement. Exposition of Churchill's thought process, as he weighed the benefits of a peace agreement against its perils in terms the entire continent of Europe falling to Nazi Germany, is enlightening.
Churchill was an imperfect person. He drank and smoked heavily and had a history of misjudging events and making wrong decisions. On the whole, however, he emerged as a strong leader and an influential politician, who affected not just the future of England but of Europe and the world. He was helped immensely by two of his political rivals, Neville Chamberlain and Lord Halifax, the three playing musical chairs in occupying positions of power over the years.
Here is an example of personal details one finds in this book. When Churchill convinced his War Cabinet to render assistance to France as it was being invaded by Germany, he thought he should deliver the news to the French PM personally. The Frenchman could not be found at work or at home with his wife. Eventually, he was located at the apartment of his mistress. Churchill wanted another official to be present as well, to hear the news first-hand. He, too, was with his mistress at the time!
Darkest Hour was turned into a movie of the same title in 2017. Gary Oldman won an Oscar and a host of other awards for portraying Winston Churchill in one of the best performances of his acting career.
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- At least 70 have died in the Syrian regime's suspected chemical attack in the Syrian city of Douma.
- Trump lashes out at Bashar al-Assad and his allies Russia and Iran over suspected chemical attack.
- EPA Chief Scott Pruitt is in the cross-hairs of even conservatives, but he is fiercely defended by Trump.
- Modern-day proverbs, according to students is a first-grade class! [List]]
- Quote of the day: "Fear does not prevent death. It prevents life." ~ Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz
- If you are one of those nay-sayers, who thinks there is no such thing as a free lunch, read on!
- Cartoon of the day: Scarecrows being deployed for US-Mexico border security! [Image]
(3) April 8-14 is National Library Week: I will participate in local Goleta celebrations, because I am a major beneficiary of public libraries, whether through the books I borrow to read (most of them come from my local public library, and much of the rest from the UCSB library) or via the items I purchase at their book sales.

2018/04/07 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A fearless worker standing on the unfinished Golden Gate Bridge, 1935 The first aerial refueling, 1923 Elvis, his father Vernon, and his grandma Minnie Mae, 1959 (1) History in pictures: [Left] A fearless worker standing on the unfinished Golden Gate Bridge, 1935. [Center] The first aerial refueling, 1923. [Right] Elvis, his father Vernon, and his grandma Minnie Mae, 1959.
(2) US Department of Homeland Security is building a database of journalists, bloggers, and news media outlets. Put this development together with Trump's characterization of journalists as enemies of the American people, and the 1984-like fight against the truth jumps right at you.
(3) Tariffs have been going down in the United States for good reasons: You can't run a 21st-century economy with a 19th-century mindset. [Chart, with data from USITC]
(4) Madeleine Albright, author of Fascism: A Warning, and former US Secretary of State, pens a NYT opinion piece which touches on all the dangers of Trump's presidency: "Will We Stop Trump Before It's Too Late?"
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- At least 14 killed in the crash of bus carrying Canadian junior hockey team.
- Delivery truck plows into pedestrians in Muenster, Germany, killing 3 and injuring 20: Driver kills himself.
- Believe it or not, this Boston Globe parody front page, dated April 9, 2017, was published in 2016!
- Bill Mahr hits it out of the ballpark in defending teachers: "#TimesUp meet #PencilsDown"
- Bridal talent: I wonder if the groom can match this! [Video]
- Today is the end of Passover, a relief to Cookie Monster and countless others! [Meme]
(6) Humor-challenged president: Trump will be a no-show at this year's White House Correspondents Dinner, celebrating the First Amendment, for the second year in a row. He will be represented at the head table by Sarah Huckabee Sanders. If they really want him to attend next year, they should change the focus from the First to the Second Amendment!
(7) Trump vs. Bezos: The Tweeter-in-Chief has attacked American corporations before, but never as viciously as his tirades against Amazon, which lost 5% of its value as a result. I hope Amazon shareholders sue him for abuse of power. "Attacking an American corporation as innovative and successful as Amazon seems a strange move for the so-called businessman president. But it's perfectly in keeping with a presidency driven not by a coherent ideology—or even a clear economic agenda, for that matter—but rather by the incoherent ravings of a petty tyrant who is all too willing to jeopardize the nation's economic strength for his own political gain."

2018/04/06 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cell-phone early warning about the latest SoCal quake (1) A group of scientists and some beta-testers of a cell-phone earthquake early-warning system got a 34-second advance notice about yesterday's magnitude-5.3 quake in Southern California. This exciting new technology will be coming to all of us shortly.
(2) For GPUs, it's Huang's Law, not Moore's law: During a 5-year period, when Moore's law predicts a 10-fold performance improvement, graphic processing units have become 25 times faster in general and up to 500 times faster for certain applications.
(3) Statistics and genetics research: UCLA researchers have developed a statistical-analysis software tool that increases the reliability of measuring how strongly genes are expressed in an individual cell.
(4) Honoring the National Poetry Month: "Even people who say: 'Oh, I don't know much about poetry,' they do have a poem that they carry." ~ Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith, in a Time-magazine interview.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Another South Korean leader falls disgracefully: Former President Park sentenced to 24 years in jail.
- The US is sanctioning Putin's son-in-law and 23 others: Will Russia retaliate by sanctioning Kushner?
- Government by the rich for the rich: The median net worth of a US senator/representative is $3.2M/$0.9M.
- Good science needs a safe environment in which researchers can contribute to the best of their abilities.
- Cause of foul smells at UCSB's University Center identified! [UCSB Daily Nexus front page]
- One more round of interesting films, as UCLA celebrates Iranian cinema, April 28 to May 19.
- Every politician we deemed unbearable or crazy now looks pleasant and sane by comparison, even Ah-nold!
- The human version of the "claw machine" for grabbing gift items at arcades is here! [Video]
- Introducing "Going Outside": A revolutionary multi-purpose activity platform for spending your time!
(6) Quote of the day: "It is not easy to protect 1.4 billion people every day. But if Facebook wants to the the home where all those people share their likes and heartbreaks and plans and politics with acquaintances online, it had better try a lot harder." ~ Lisa Eadicicco, writing in Time magazine, issue of April 2, 2018
(7) A French baker was fined $3700 for keeping his shop open every day, in defiance of a law that requires bakeries to close for at least one day of rest each week. [Source: Time magazine, issue of April 2, 2018]
(8) Approaching storm: Weather reports for the weekend are conflicting, ranging from a minor storm, with no danger of flash-floods or mud-flows, to a major storm (atmospheric river) dumping one month's worth of rain in a couple of days. I decided to go for a long walk, given the uncertainty for the weekend. The Devereux Slough has nearly dried up (except for the area closest to the ocean), after it filled to the brim with the last rainstorm. It is extremely windy on the beach, with threatening clouds overhead. [Photos]

2018/04/05 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
California fashions, 1960 Day at the beach, 1920s Buick Flamingo, with rotating front seat, 1961 (1) History in pictures: [Left] California fashions, 1960. [Center] Day at the beach, 1920s. [Right] Buick Flamingo, with rotating front seat, 1961.
(2) A pretty strong jolt hit Goleta, California, around 12:30 PM today: It resulted from a 5.3-magnitude quake near Santa Cruz Island, the strongest SoCal tremor in years. No damages have been reported.
(3) The family of 8, whose SUV fell off a cliff in California, leading to 5 confirmed deaths and 3 missing kids, apparently drove off the cliff at high speed intentionally. The plunge is now being investigated as a crime.
(4) Top-10 most-recognized Chinese words in English-speaking countries: Shaolim (name of a famed temple of martial arts); Yin and yang (philosophical concepts); Yuan (currency); Gugong (Forbidden City); Nihao (hello); Wushu (martial arts); Qi (vital force); Qigong (traditional exercise); Renminbi (currency); Majiang (Mahjong, a four-player game). [Source: Time magazine, issue of April 2, 2018]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Have the Saudis bought out Jared Kushner, Trump's closest adviser?
- California gubernatorial candidate John Chiang proposes drastic tuition cuts at public universities.
- More than 1/3 of US college students don't have enough to eat: The hidden crisis on college campuses.
- Pete Souza is using Obama's photos to troll Trump, as he goes on an anti-Obama tweet-storm.
- The great-again America: A hijab-wearing woman is brutally attacked in a hospital lobby.
- Trump kills DACA, nixes two bipartisan deals and a Senate proposal to reinstate it, then blames Democrats!
- Book introduction: A remarkable memoir by a neuroscientist with an uncompromising will to live. [Image]
- From an opinion piece about bogus journals by Marilyn Dyrud, Prism magazine, March-April 2018. [Image]
- Cartoon of the day: A new title among children's books, "The President and the Porn Star." [Image]
- EPA-updated test-crash dummies: "Can't they remove these restrictive harnesses?" [Cartoon]
(6) A modest suggestion (netiquette pointer): Sending or posting a link with no accompanying description is rude. It assumes that people will click on the link and spend a few minutes reading, listening to, or watching it just because it was shared by you. Some links show up with a description from the source, but even then, it's considerate to say in a few words why you liked it or why you think I'd like it, saving me time if it's about an issue or holds content I don't particularly care about. And brief tags such as "Wow!" or "Must watch!" don't count, as they aren't very informative. A different reason for the courtesy is that scammers often send links to infected Web sites under a real person's name, gleaned from hacked address books or Facebook pages. Seeing your personal description of the link reassures me that you, not a scammer, sent or posted the link.

2018/04/04 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Young Vladimir Putin, 1972 Young Angela Merkel, 1970s Young Donald Trump, 1960s (1) History in pictures (world leaders edition): [Left] Young Vladimir Putin, 1972. [Center] Young Angela Merkel, 1970s. [Right] Young Donald Trump, 1960s.
(2) Yesterday's shooter at YouTube headquarters in San Bruno, Nasim Najafi Aghdam, had complained about and battled against the platform. She injured 3 individuals (Woman, 32, in serious condition; Woman, 27, in fair condition; Man, 36, in critical condition), before taking her own life. Other details about motive will come out soon, but it is quite unfortunate that amidst tragedy and carnage, some members of our society can't hold their misogynistic tendencies in check. On a social-media post about the event, a commenter wrote: "Woman shooter? No wonder she's the only one dead."
(3) Mark My Words: Here is a collection of four poems in the April 2018 issue of Poetry magazine, as my part in honoring the US National Poetry Month [Ilya Kaminsky's "Question"; Kiandra Jimenez's "Halcyon Kitchen"; Terisa Siagatonu's "Atlas"; Paul Tran's "Scientific Method"]. Four Persian Nowruz poems of mine from years past constitute my second contribution to the Poetry MOnth. Higher-res versions of these latter poems, as well as other poems, are available on my poetry page.
(4) Dina Ketabi, a native of Damascus, Syria, has been honored with the 2017 ACM Prize in Computing, for her contributions to wireless networking. Ketabi is the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor of Computer Science and Director of the Center for Wireless Networks and Mobile Computing at MIT.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Remembering Martin Luther King Jr., fifty years after his assassination on April 4, 1968. [2-minute video]
- Three former US Army soldiers accused of doing contract killings for an international crime boss.
- The US is bypassed in discussions about Syria's future, thanks to our administration's inept foreign policy.
- Lebanese couple sentenced to death in Kuwait for murdering a Filipina maid and freezing her body.
- Facebook has removed 270 accounts controlled by Internet Research Agency, a Russion troll farm.
- After yesterday's shootings at YouTube, I'm afraid NRA may propose that all software engineers be armed!
- S&P's 10% drop from its peak explains the absence of Trump tweets about the stock market.
- Andrew McCabe's legal-defense fundraiser reached $0.5 million, more than triple its goal, in just a few days.
- Trump's declaration of "Sexual Assault Awareness Month" was a gift of jokes to late-night comedians!
- Graphic humor: The Easter Bunny, standing next to Donald Trump, reacts to his statements. [Image]
(6) Captain's announcement: "... and, at this time, you may switch on your electronic devices and see what he's said now." [Cartoon caption from The New Yorker]
(7) Final thought for the day: View the Trump presidency as a needed vaccine; if we survive it, we may become immune to the disease of Trump-like leaders.

2018/04/03 (Tuesday): Book review: Jahren, Hope, Lab Girl, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by the author, Random House Audio, 2016. [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Cover image of Hope Jahren's memoir 'Lab Girl' In this award-winning and best-selling book, Jahren writes about her personal experiences and professional endeavors as a triple-Fulbright-winning geobiologist. The journal Nature has characterized Lab Girl as "Clear, compelling and uncompromisingly honest" and its author as "the voice that science has been waiting for."
The book is "UCSB Reads" program's 2018 selection, which provided me with a free hard-copy, but I ended up listening to the MP3 audiobook version I borrowed from my local library. Hearing Jahren read her own book is a definite plus; you can readily recognize the highly emotional passages by her quivering voice. Jahren gave a free public lecture at UCSB's Campbell Hall on April 3, 2018, under the title "Be as a Tree: The Magic of Roots, Leaves and Everything in-Between." Some of the anecdotes in the review that follows come from her UCSB lecture.
Jahren grew up in the science lab of her dad, a professor at a rural Minnesota college. Her scientific pursuits took her to UC Berkeley as a graduate student, followed by stints at Georgia Tech, Johns Hopkins U., and U. Hawaii. She shares the hardships she and her poorly-compensated assistant and long-term collaborator endured to work on research projects they liked and the numerous redirections and re-starts that were required after messing up.
Jahren has become a feminist icon, but, in this book, she does not dwell much on her specific problems as a woman doing science, but rather emphasizes the difficulty of doing science in general, especially as research funds become scarce and competition for limited resources intensify. The lion's share of funding goes to applied research, something that Jahren has reluctantly accepted: "Science for war will always pay better than science for knowledge."
Jahren grew up at an age and in a place where girls had to be completed by boys. Once a co-worker asked her if she had a boyfriend. Somehow, she felt compelled to lie and answered "yes." He then asked why she was working if she had a boyfriend! About problems arising from sexism in STEM fields, Jahren has opined, "My challenge is to show these problems, while ferociously defending all that is beautiful and noble about doing science with your hands. My story is not tragic. I have been generously rewarded for everything I've ever tried to do. I'm actually a happy ending."
Jahren began her UCSB talk by telling the audience a bit about herself, now a character in a book! She indicated that the main message of her book and talk was that plants are alive. Some consider them "less alive" than animals, but they are really just as alive. Plants move by hydrating and dehydrating their various parts, as they do not have muscles. They need to move in order to get light, their only source of energy. Seeds as well as centuries-old trees are alive and patiently waiting for long stretches of time: One is waiting for an opportune moment to sprout and become a plant, the other to die.
In her talk, Jahren read passages from several holy books that showed the central roles of plants and flowers in ancient times. She connected these passages to the observation that plants and flowers are links to our past, noting that even though she had very little in common with a middle-aged woman who lived many centuries ago, they could both relate to the notion of sitting in the shade under a tree or smelling a fragrant flower.
Like her book, the UCSB talk was frank and witty, and at times laugh-out-loud funny. She indicated that one positive aspect of doing research on plants is that you can do anything with them, even kill them, with no repercussions. There is no need for cumbersome paperwork and authorizations! You can't deprive an animal of water for days to see what happens to it!
A refreshing aspect of Lab Girl is the way in which Jahren describes nature and her research on plant life. Here's an example: "A cactus doesn't live in the desert because it likes the desert; it lives there because the desert hasn't killed it yet. Any plant that you find growing in the desert will grow a lot better if you take it out of the desert. The desert is a lot like lousy neighborhoods; nobody living there can afford to move." In her UCSB lecture, Jahren stressed the predicament of plants in terms of having but one chance: Once they spread their roots, they have to endure whatever comes their way, as they can't just pack up and move to a better location.
In the Q&A period, a number of interesting questions were asked and Jahren's replies were just as refreshing as her talk. On encouraging students to do science, she observed that we don't give enough positive feedback, focusing instead on problem areas, such as a student needing to learn more about statistics or work on improving this or that skill. Her advice is that we focus on students' strengths, what feels right to them, and where they can thrive. Asked about the one thing she wished she were told or knew before embarking on a career in science, she answered that she was a know-it-all and would not have listened to any advice anyway, quipping: "That's the reason I had only one friend." Elsewhere, she joked that she receives almost no party invitations because of her outspokenness. In answer to a question from a female assistant professor about the challenges of academia for women, Jahren explained that the problems are the same as elsewhere in society and that every issue faced by feminism boils down to the three interconnected basic notions of sexual violence, pay inequity, and reproductive rights.
As she nears 50, Jahren is almost finished with her next book, which deals with five decades of her life and changes in the natural world over that time period. She characterizes the new book's tone as optimistic, in line with her belief in love and work, a combination that makes it difficult to imagine we won't prevail.

2018/04/02 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Street in San Francisco, California, 1964. Young woman riding a motorcycle with a golf bag on her back, 1928 Alfred Hitchcock in front of a 'Psycho' billboard during a promotional tour in Berlin, Germany, 1960 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Street in San Francisco, California, 1964. [Center] Young woman riding a motorcycle with a golf bag on her back, 1928. [Right] Alfred Hitchcock in front of a 'Psycho' billboard during a promotional tour in Berlin, Germany, 1960.
(2) This week's cover of Santa Barbara Independent reminded me of the scramble in April many years ago to find the kids appropriate summer activities before all local programs filled up.
(3) April is the US National Poetry Month and many publications, including Santa Barbara Independent, are having special features to mark the occasion. [Page in SB Independent]
(4) Local journalists and broadcasters up in arms against Sinclair Broadcast Group's mandate that stations air more anti-media stories in support of President Trump's media bashing. Here is the script Sinclair Broadcast Group shoved down the throats of all of its affiliate stations, which are supposed to be independently-operated stations serving the needs of their local communities.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Kellyanne Conway is the number-one leaker in the White House, according to author of new book on Trump.
- China's out-of-control Tiangong-1 space lab crashes into Pacific Ocean: Phew!
- Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking given a royal treatment for his burial in Cambridge, England.
- Both NYT and WP had editorials on 3/31 lamenting Trump administration's disdain toward science.
- Quote of the day: "Earth is forgiveness school. It begins by forgiving yourself." ~ Anne Lamott
- Anne Lamott's witty and funny 16-minute TED talk: 12 Truths I Learned from Life and Writing.
- Human Statue of Liberty: Some 18,000 men were used for this 1918 photo, taken in Iowa.
- People of Astara worked hard for 15 weeks to turn their river into the first trash-free waterway in Iran.
Open-access publishing logo (6) Pull vs. push in scholarly publishing: For many decades, the standard publishing model was subscription-based, or the reader-pays model. Researchers would publish their work free of charge and the publisher, whether it was a non-profit professional entity or a commercial publisher, would recover its costs through paid personal and institutional subscriptions. It was later realized that the subscription-based model hindered access to scientific research results, especially for non-sponsored individual researchers and for those living in developing countries. The open-access publishing model was supposed to fix the problem by asking the authors or their institutions to pay a one-time up-front fee to cover publication costs in order to make access completely free to readers. There is general agreement among researchers that open-access is a better model, particularly in disciplines where research sponsors pay the up-front fees, known as article-processing charges. A negative byproduct of this push-style open-access publishing was the emergence of predatory publishers, who make a profit by publishing almost anything, without, or with very minimal, peer reviews. Authors who can afford to pay the processing charges can pad their publication lists and pretend that they are successful researchers, without burning the midnight oil, so to speak. Among academic institutions, such predatory publishers are known (black-listed) and papers they publish are viewed as unworthy of credit in research assessments for the sake of promotions, research grants, and the like. A proposal, offered by Sheldon H. Jacobson in the March 2018 issue of Communications of the ACM may help solve this problem. The pull-style proposal is to divide research institutions into three tiers, depending on the volume of papers their researchers publish, and have them pay a "fair" annual subscription fee for their researcers to be able to publish all their work free of charge. Because publishers will be competing to get the said subscription fees from prestigious institutions, they will be motivated to improve the quality of their peer-review process. Also, to preserve their academic prestige, institutions will be motivated to support only high-quality journals and conferences, leading to a sustainable solution. [Image: .jpg; 259w, 93h]

2018/04/01 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Unknown man during the Great Depression, 1932 The Kennedys in a photo-booth picture Soldier carrying a Christmas tree home, 1915 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Unknown man during the Great Depression, 1932. [Center] The Kennedys in a photo-booth picture. [Right] Soldier carrying a Christmas tree home, 1915.
(2) Steel tariffs may spur research on advanced composite materials to replace steel: This isn't necessarily bad, but the tariffs may not actually bring manufacturing and steel jobs back.
(3) The Economics of "Fake News": This is the title of an article by Nir Kshetri and Jeffrey Voas, published in the November/December 2017 issue of IEEE's IT Professional. AI can now produce fake research papers that pass the peer review process of reputable conferences and journals. Automatic generation of fake news stories is even easier and it has vast economic consequences, given that catchy fake-news headlines generate clicks and, thus, advertising dollars.
(Anne Lamott’s witty and funny 16-minute TED talk: 12 Truths I Learned from Life and Writing. Book talk in Santa Barbara: Abigail Pogrebin will speak under the title "My Amazing, Demanding, Indelible Jewish Year," on Sunday, April 22, 2018, 3:00 PM (at Congregation B'nai B'rit, 1000 San Antonio Creek Road), based on her book, My Jewish Year: 18 Holidays, one Wondering Jew, Fig Tree Books, 2017.
(5) Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," sung in English and Arabic: The 22-year-old singer, Mennel Ibtissem, was later forced to quit the French singing competition show because of her insensitive remarks on social media, expressing doubts that the 2016 Nice truck attack, killling 86 and injuring hundreds, was a case of terrorism.
Cover image for Bandy Lee's 'The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump' (6) Book review: Lee, Bandy X., The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, unabridged MP3 audiobook with several narrators, Macmillan Audio, 2017.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Dr. Bandy Lee was the organizer of Yale University's "Duty to Warn" Conference in which the 27 psychiatrists, psychologist, and other mental health experts featured in this volume participated. The various contributors examine different aspects of Donald Trump's personality and mode of operation and the dangers they pose to our country and its citizens, although there is significant overlap among the contributions.
The American Psychiatric Association's "Goldwater rule" (named after presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, who was deemed by nearly 1200 psychiatrists as unfit to be US President) bars mental health professionals from diagnosing public figures they have not personally examined. Many such professionals maintain that their duty to warn against an unfit and unstable leader takes precedence over the rules of their professions.
Collectively, the 27 contributors present a compelling case that Donald Trump constitutes a clear and present danger to the United States and the world, whatever the psychiatric diagnosis of his condition might be. In fact, it is irrelevant whether the danger posed by Trump arises from a specific psychiatric condition.

2018/03/31 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Passover to all! Chocolate bunnies with missing parts Happy Easter to all! (1) Happy Passover to all those celebrating this Jewish holiday, whose observance actually began last night! Also, a very happy Easter to all those who observe the holiday tomorrow! Chocolate bunnies are everywhere in stores, so I thought the middle image above might resonate with you all!
(2) The myth of the criminal immigrant: Despite the 118% increase in the immigrant population from 1980 to 2016, the US crime rate fell by 36%. [NYT chart]
(3) New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu is this year's JFK Profile in Courage Award honoree for pursuing the removal of four Confederate statues in the city. [1-minute video]
(4) After repeatedly saying over the past two years that she'd devote herself to preventing cyber-bullying, Melania Trump indicates that cyber-bullying is too narrow a focus and, instead, she plans to work on all issues related to children, including nutrition and drug abuse. I guess reneging on promises runs in the family!
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Moses goes down to Egypt: A jazzy tune about Passover.
- Just because it is the "White" House, doesn't mean that nearly all the interns should be white! [Photo]
- UC-Berkeley engineers build a three-atoms-thick display that becomes fully transparent when not in use.
- Twitter bots are fueling political discord: This Scientific American article presents the whys and hows.
- Iranian vigilante threatens a women's-rights activist of the "My Stealthy Freedom" fame with death.
- Kurds in the village of Kanduleh, Kermanshah, observe a long-running tradition of welcoming Nowruz.
(6) Corruption everywhere: EPA Chief Scott Pruitt got a sweetheart $50/night deal on a townhouse close to Capitol Hill, owned by the wife of an energy lobbyist, paid only on the nights he stayed there.
(7) Terahertz computers appear to be within reach: After years of exponential growth, the clock rates of modern mass-market processors have flattened out at just under 10 GHz. One reason is the extreme energy requirements of faster processors. Another is compromised reliability for higher clock rates. A Hebrew University of Jerusalem researcher has found a way to increase the clock rate 100-fold by using scalable and mass-producible optical elements.
(8) [Final thought for the day] Walk with your head up on Monday: The out-of-control 9.4-ton Chinese Space Lab Tiangong-1 is hurtling toward the Earth, with crashing tentatively expected on Monday 4/01. No one knows where it will hit. And, no, this isn't an April Fool's hoax!

2018/03/30 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image for Arianna Huffington's 'Thrive' (1) Book review: Huffington, Arianna, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Agapi Stassinopoulos, Random House Audio, 2014.
[My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I started listening to this audiobook with relatively low expectations. Even then, I was rather disappointed with Huffington's superficial reasoning and rampant use of cliches. The main point of the book is that success cannot stand on the two legs of money and power, but needs a third leg, made of the three 'W's mentioned in the book's title: well-being, wisdom, and wonder. Huffington subsequently clarifies that giving is also part of this "third metric" of success.
And the problem starts right here, at the very beginning. Considering the three most-important components of human happiness and contentment collectively on par with money or power is difficult to justify. This obsession with money and power is uniquely American and, in a rather strange way, anti-American, a contradiction that is all too clear in today's climate.
If I were to construct a similar recipe for gauging success, I would build a 4-legged stool, with the four legs being well-being, wisdom, wonder, and money/power. Money and power are mere tools and don't bring us happiness in and of themselves, whereas each of the three 'W's is germane to human contentment. The also-important attributes of compassion and giving result directly from the other four.
The most compelling parts of this new book are those dealing with the importance of mindfulness and getting enough sleep (the latter being the subject of a previous book by Huffington, The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time). "Sleeping your way to the top" is how Huffington puts it. Huffington cites much academic research in putting across the key roles of mindfulness and proper sleep habits, and I learned a great deal from these parts of the book.
Producers of the audiobook apparently thought that having someone with as thick a Greek accent as Huffington's reading the book adds to its authenticity. The strategy backfires, in my opinion. And it's not just the accent: Ms. Stassinopoulos frequently puts the stress on the wrong syllables in words or words in sentences. Listeners may tolerate a less-than-pleasant voice, accent, or enunciation when it comes from the author of a work, but coming from someone else, it quickly becomes annoying.
(2) A new book every Jewish voter should read before the 2018 US election: It's on my to-read list.
Weisman, Jonathan, (((Semitism))): Being Jewish in America in the Age of Trump, St. Martin's Press, 2018.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- The web of connections between Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. [Image]
- Donald Trump vs. Jeff Bezos, round 2: As an avid user of Amazon's services, I'm rooting for Bezos.
- New film on Mary Magdalene stirs up age-old controversies about her character and connection to Jesus.
- Number-one late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert's 30-minute SuperSoul conversation with Oprah.
- Humorous meme of the day: Hope Hicks finally departs the White House. May start a fragrance business!
- Strategic expression: UCSB Psychology professor explores facial expressions as tools for social influence.
- Physics created the A-bomb and chemistry the nerve gas: Will CS follow suit with weaponized algorithms?
(4) In January, at the start of our planning for a 50th-anniversary get-together of Fanni College's class of 1968 at University of Tehran (set for July 14-18, 2018, in Yerevan, Armenia), we were exchanging memories, funny stories, and poems about our long journey and other topics of interest. Here is the poem I contributed.

2018/03/29 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Ernest R. Ashton, Evening near the Pyramids, circa 1897 The original 'Star Wars' cast The eruption of Mount St. Helens, 1980 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Ernest R. Ashton, Evening near the Pyramids, circa 1897. [Center] The original "Star Wars" cast. [Right] The eruption of Mount St. Helens, 1980.
(2) Today I updated my spring 2018 course Web pages in preparation for classes beginning on Monday, April 2. Here are the links: ECE 1B, freshman seminar, "Ten Puzzling Problems in Computer Engineering" (meets Wed., 3:30-4:50); ECE 252B, graduate course, "Computer Arithmetic" (meets Mon./Wed. 12:00-1:30).
(3) A very unstable POTUS: Trump states that the US will withdraw from Syria very soon, letting others take care of the problems there. Both the State Department and US Military's Central Command are caught off-guard, denying any withdrawal plans. Our Commander-in-Chief is now putting the US armed forces in a bind, while alerting enemies to our military plans!
(4) Comedian Stephen Colbert jokingly referred to a GoFundMe project to pay for Trump's border wall, but someone has already set up a page, which shows $208 raised from its $400M goal!
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Trump is advised to eliminate two White House positions: Communications Director and Chief of Staff.
- Fire after riot at Venezuelan police station leaves 68 dead.
- Family of 8 perishes in SUV plunge off a cliff in California: Five confirmed dead; three kids still missing.
- Judge is cited because he asked a woman if she tried closing her legs to prevent alleged sexual assault!
- Earliest known human footprints in North America (13,000 years old) found on Canadian island.
- Andrea Bocelli channels Elvis while performing in Las Vegas: "Can't Help Falling in Love"
- Half of the estimated 1M Iranian-Americans live in SoCal, mostly in "Tehrangeles": Here's their story.
- "I am not this hair, I am not this skin. I am this soul that lives within." ~ Rumi (Mowlavi)
- "The car doesn't know if I'm a man or a woman, and it doesn't care." ~ Pro race-car driver Julia Landauer
(6) The Quantum Brain Project (QuBrain): An international research collaboration based at UCSB investigates the brain's potential for quantum computation. It is hoped that this project will reveal the nature of some of the human brain's functions, such as long-term memory, that continue to elude neuroscience.

2018/03/28 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Poster for UCSB Economic Forecast Project's panel discussion at Lobero Theater (1) What Happened, and What Now? (A Discussion on the Economic, Business, and Fiscal Impacts of the Thomas Fire and Montecito Mudslides): This was the title of a panel discussion organized by UCSB Economic Forecast Project (EFP) and held at Santa Barbara's Lobero Theater. Two moderators* and six presenters had been announced, but a Montecito resident was added to the list of presenters. The gender balance among the presenters and moderators was a pleasant surprise for me. Today's discussions and PowerPoint presentation slides will be made available via UCSB-EFP Web site and the full event will be broadcast by a local Santa Barbara TV station.
- Ed Edick*, Co-Owner/Founder, Village Properties
- Janet Garufis*, Chair & CEO, Montecito Bank & Trust
- Dave Jones, California Insurance Commissioner
- Peter Rupert, PhD, Executive Director, UCSB-EFP
- Nina Johnson, Sr. Assistant to the SB City Administrator
- Kathy Janega-Dykes, President & CEO, Visit SB
- Betsy Schaffer, Assistant Auditor-Controller, SB County
- Joe Holland, Clerk, Recorder & Assessor, SB County
- Megan Orloff, Montecito resident
I will just list some facts and figures from my notes, leaving the discussion details to subsequent publication by UCSB-EFP: Insurace claims $1.8B; Firefighting costs $177M; Average length of business closures 13 days (longest was 72 days); More than 50% of homes in 12 different counties are now classified as high-risk and will likely see significant insurance rate increases (the Commissioner must approve rate increases, based on recovery of expenditure over several years, not all at once); Hotel revenue losses in December $6M; Based on experience, recovery from an event of this magnitude takes at least 90 days; Properties damaged 401 (total value $1.2B); Estimated county-wide tax loss this year $6.9M (doubling next year); Effects on sales tax are unknown, due to delayed reporting; Some 94% of costs will be recovered from FEMA, but revenue losses are unrecoverable; Montecito is an unincorported entity, making decisions on recovery projects difficult (some changes may be forthcoming); Coast Village Road and US 101 traffic problems, which were serious even before the disaster, are being given full consideration; SB County had a rainy-day fund which helped cover the expenses; Many homeowners will not rebuild; Construction guidelines to minimize the impact of future disasters of this kind are being considered; Schools will feel the impact of tax revenue loss next year, not this year; Governor Brown has some funds for the fire-impacted Sonoma County schools, and SB has asked to be included in the use of those funds; The Sonoma County fire, particularly in Santa Rosa, was much more devastating in terms of monetary loss tha Montecito's. [Before and after imagery]
Insurance questions of any kind for the Commissioner's office (not limited to fire and mudslide): 800-929-4357
[Side note: A few photos of Santa Barbara's historic Lobero Theater, the downtown Post Office diagonally across the street from it, and a couple of other architectural landmarks within a block of the Theater.]
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Trump's legal team in tatters: Prominent lawyers and law firms are avoiding his toxic White House.
- A Chinese tomb, holding many interesting artefacts and booze from 2000 years ago unearthed.
- Big pharma is suffocating our healthcare system with unreasonable price hikes.
- Is China throwing a curveball by meeting with Kim Jong Un ahead of his meeting Trump or is it helping?
- Is the interstitium really a previously overlooked human organ, as scientists now claim?
- A wonderful resource: Broad collection of free e-books on programming and other CS topics.
- Caption: "Are there any non-citizen immigrants here? The President may need a new wife." [Cartoon]
- Let's not forget this meme and sign in the 2018 US congressional and local elections.
(3) Carsey-Wolf Center presents "Women in Comedy": Achievements of women in American film and television comedy will be showcased during the spring 2018 series, each screening followed by a moderated discussion. All screenings begin at 7:00 PM, except for the one on Saturday 5/19, which begins at 2:00 PM.
- April 12 (Thursday): "Saturday Night Live" (55 min), with Laraine Newman (actress)
- April 17 (Tuesday): "Drop Dead Gorgeous" (97 min), with Mindy Sterling (actress)
- April 19 (Thursday): "Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley" (72 min), with Bambi Haggins (UC Irvine)
- May 19 (Saturday): "The Royal Tanenbaums" (110 min; 2001), with Gwyneth Paltrow (actress)
- May 22 (Tuesday): Two Silent Classics*, with live piano accompaniment by Michael Mortilla (pianist)
[* "Won in a Cupboard" (13 min; 1914) and "The Oyster Princess" (60 min; 1919)]

2018/03/27 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
UCSB Arts Walk publicity poster (1) UCSB Arts Walk: This collection of free events will be held on Wednesday 4/11, 4:30-8:00 PM, at various campus locations, it will feature rehearsals, performances, and exhibits from the Departments of Music, Art, Theater & Dance, as well as College of Creative Studies, UCSB Library, Multicultural Center, and Art, Design, & Architecture Museum.
(2) Reactions of cowardly politicians to March for Our Lives:
Rubio: I do not agree with the March for Our Lives.
Santorum: Students should learn CPR instead of marching.
Trump: Played golf and largly ignored the marching students.
(3) This Kurdish girl reminds us that the Kurds, who helped the world by fighting ISIS at great cost in lives and treasure, were abandoned at Afrin, when they came under fire from Turkey.
(4) What a legal mess! Attorneys for attorneys fight over Stormy Daniel's "60 Minutes" interview. I am not posting this story because of my interest in the sexual revelations it contains. I just wanted to show my befuddlement over attorneys for other attorneys and attorneys for agents fighting each other in the media. On second thought, maybe this isn't weird at all. Don't dentists go to other dentists to have their teeth fixed?
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Facebook's epic fail: Zuckerberg falls from potential presidential candidate to an untrustworthy person.
- Why Trump was so keen on increasing the defense budget: He hopes the military will pay for his wall!
- There have been other stories of abusive nurses, but abusing newborns is particularly troubling.
- Time magazine turns 95: Its first issue was dated March 3, 1923. Here are two covers from that first year.
- Quote of the day: "When you blame others, you give up your power to change." ~ Anonymous
- This is Iran: An 8-minute video (in Persian), in which a number of Iranians introduce their favorite places.
(6) Brief samples of old programs on Iranian radio. People of Iranian origins, who are about my age, can identify with these audio clips from Iran's pre-TV days, when radio was king. [6-minute audio file]
(7) This Facebook post of mine from March 27, 2017, about Kushner's opinion that America should be run like a business, has turned into a funny one, given what we now know about him as a slumlord, who pressured tenants with all sorts of inconveniences to force them to leave.
(8) Dr. Nouri Parhami, one of the three surviving uncles on my father's side of the family, passed away late last night. Nine of his siblings had preceded him on this journey. He specialized in internal medicine and rheumatology, and he had published many research papers in the latter field. He was proud of his Kurdish heritage and played the tar in his spare time. He is survived by his wife, three daughters, two grandchildren, and two younger brothers. I offer this Persian poem, in which both half-verses of each verse begin with one letter in his Persian first name, as a token of my respect and appreciation. May he Rest in Peace!

2018/03/26 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Marilyn Monroe visiting American troops in Korea, 1954 Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland, 1946 Gregory Peck reading 'To Kill a Mockingbird'; photo by Cliff Donaldson (1) History in pictures: [Left] Marilyn Monroe visiting American troops in Korea, 1954. [Center] Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland, 1946. [Right] Gregory Peck reading 'To Kill a Mockingbird'; photo by Cliff Donaldson.
(2) The group Public Citizen has filed complaints about violations of Trump's Executive Order No. 13770, which barred former lobbyists from being appointed to governmental positions in many cases.
(3) Look who's complaining about fake news and inaccurate statements! Trump takes a swipe at Stormy Daniels and CBS's "60 Minutes," without mentioning them by name, which is unusual for the Bully-in-Chief, who has a name for everyone he dislikes. Trump tweet (3/26/18, 5:38 AM): "So much Fake News. Never been more voluminous or more inaccurate. But through it all, our country is doing great!"
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Shopping-center fire in the Russian city of Kemerovo kills at least 64, with dozens still missing.
- US to expel 60 Russian diplomats in multi-nation coordinated response to UK poisoning of Russian ex-spy.
- NRA used rapper Killer Mike'a interview about police brutality to slam the Parkland students' March.
- Iranian philosopher and free-thinker Dariush Shayegan, center in this selfie taken shortly before his passing.
- [Joke of the day] Book 1 to Book 2: "You look so much thinner since you had your appendix removed."
- Women musicians play at a shopping mall in Tehran on the occasion of Women's Day. [3-minute video].
(5) I hope this doesn't mean what I think it means: The Serbian Defense Minister states that the military will participate in raising the birth rate in Serbia!
Cover image of Amy Schumers 'The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo' (6) Book review: Schumer, Amy, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by the author, Simon & Schuster Audio, 2016. [My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I found this non-memoir (Schumer states that she is too young to write a memoir) by a highly successful comedian somewhat disappointing. I consider Schumer a brave and talented writer/performer, but there are many stories in this book that make one consider fast-forwarding to more interesting stuff. Touching and insightful passages aren't totally missing, but they are few and far in between. The part of the book I liked best is Schumer's description of her gun-laws activism, which began after a mass shooting at a theater screening her 2015 movie, "Trainwreck."
Schumer built her reputation as a comic with her brand of shock humor, defined as a comedy style with excessive focus on toilet language and overt sexual themes, among others. Male comedians have been using shock humor for decades, with female comedians getting into it more recently. Its success is in part due to our inhibitions in discussing our most private thoughts, which leads to a kind of release when someone else does so. Shock humor is also a way for comics to make their brand stand out in a crowded and highly competitive profession. The different ways in which male and female comedians pursuing shock humor are viewed by our society is a good example of the long way we still need to go in confronting misogyny.
I learned from this book that schumer, besides being talented, is also hard-working and quite focused on achieving her goals. It is a miracle that she became so successful, given the many different family arrangements she experienced. Almost all of those family configurations had one or more forms of dysfunction. Schumer resented her mom and dad for the aloof, reckless lives they led, but, in the end, she actually loved both of them, warts and all.
In recent years, quite a few young female actresses and stand-up comedians have written books and there seems to be a lucrative market for getting life advice from those who have not always made the best choices themselves. If you like Schumer and her brand of humor, you will enjoy this book. Otherwise, you can skip it, with little loss.

2018/03/25 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Three of the women who are fighting legal battles with Trump (1) Three of the women who will bring Trump down: Their motivations are unclear; even the one who claims she loved him, comes across as insincere. But, hey, no amount of insincerity or deception will match Trump's.
(2) Stopping hurricanes in their tracks: Is it just a scientific pipe dream or might it be possible to prevent hurricanes from gaining strength by using technology to reduce the surface temperature of oceans?
(3) Anonymous quote: "You'd be surprised how far you can go from the point where you thought was the end."
(4) Autonomous vehicles are as safe as human-operated ones, and they will ultimately be much safer: Despite the recent fatality in Arizona, the safety record of self-driving cars is still better than that of human-operated vehicles, when measured in accidents or fatalities per mile driven. Asking that safety rules be overhauled after a single fatality is like demanding that rules for issuring driver's licenses be revised after each traffic death.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Charity redefined: NRA is a tax-exempt public charity! Unbelievable!
- Bill Gates recreates a 1973 photo pose 43 years later. [Photos]
- Armenian State Jazz Band, something to look for if your travels take you to Yerevan, Armenia: "Qaravan"
- A luxury cruise ship has been sliced in half as part of a project to extend its length by 15 m (50 ft).
- Irish blessing: May you never forget what's worth remembering, nor ever remember what's best forgotten.
- History in pictures: Long-Term Parking, by Armand Pierre Fernandez, 1982. [Photo]
- Cartoon of the day: Spring arrives for Special Counsel Robert Mueller. [Image]
(6) Nine operatives of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps have been charged with global cyber-thefts: They will be arrested if they travel to any of the countries that have extradition treaties with the US. The attacked sites include those of university researchers, industrial and regulatory entities, and Internet/media companies. This is worrisome on multiple levels. First, many universities conduct classified research, so some intelligence-, security-, and weapons-related research may have been compromised. Second, industrial research projects with potential for patenting and licensing will have their values vastly diminished, as Iran is known to exchange such data with China, Russia, and other countries. Third, mailboxes that are said to have been stolen in full may get a lot of people in trouble, including professors of Iranian origins who are politically active, along with any contacts they may have in Iran and other countries around the world.
(7) Santa Barbara March for Our Lives: Yesterday's march along State Street, from De La Guerra Plaza to Victoria, and back, as well as in many other cities around the US, was to show support for Florida's Parkland students and other youth who have started a fight against the tyranny of NRA, a fight that we adults have not taken up with the same zeal and that our political leaders have avoided for decades. The crowd was comparable to the 2017 women's march (also, much more energized), and it was considerably larger than the 2018 edition of the women's march. There was significant participation by teenagers and younger kids, girls in particular, who led many of the chants. "I May Be Next" was the most heart-breaking sign I saw. One speaker at the pre-march rally had lost a friend in last year's Las Vegas mass shooting. She brought a photo of her friend, a Carpinteria resident, and urged us not to wait for such tragedies to affect us personally before acting. [Photos]

Cover image for the book 'Everybody Lies' 2018/03/24 (Saturday): Book review: Stephens-Davidowitz, Seth, Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Tim Andres Pabon, Harper Audio, 2017.
[My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
A main thesis of this remarkable book is that the days of doing research with small samples are over in a number of domains. Analysis of Google searches can tell us a lot more, with a larger sample size than we could ever dream of and with much greater honesty on the part of the subjects. Stephens-Davidowitz cites numerous examples. For instance, racism is a trait that people hide quite successfully. When Barack Obama was elected President, the prevailing mood was that America had become a post-racial society. Yet, Google searches told a different story, given that many people were searching for phrases like "nigger jokes," a search that also peaks on Martin Luther King Day.
Searches for porn, relationship insecurities, and embarrassing diseases also tell similar stories, hence, the title "Everybody Lies." It is impossible to get accurate results from survey questions such as: Have you ever cheated on an exam? How many times have you had sex over the last week? Have you ever fantasized about killing someone? Social desirability bias makes people under-report shameful behaviors and over-report activity that makes them look good or desirable.
Nowhere is the discrepancy between self-reported traits and actual behaviors more evident than in talking about sex. Here is one example: data on condom sales show a much lower volume than the number obtained by people's self-reported sexual activity in which they used condoms. As another example, gay men are distributed pretty much evenly across the united states, judging by Google search data about gay sex, yet there are far more openly gay men in tolerant states than in intolerant ones. There are many other examples that contradict conventional wisdom.
Google's autocomplete feature for searches, which is based on searches that have been performed in the past, reveals much about social behavior. If a woman starts to type "Is my husband ..." into Google's search box, the continuation "gay" is more likely than "cheating," revealing a deep social insecurity, particularly in states that are less tolerant toward homosexuality. If you start your search with "Why are Jews ... ," autocomplete suggests the continuations "evil," "tight," "ugly," and the like. I tried this out and it seems that Google has stopped offering such continuations in searches about Jews!
Google search data is supplied to researchers anonymously, so (it is claimed that) nothing can be construed about the behavior of individuals. Clever use of the data can reveal correlations and complex relationships about various social groups. Yet, the recent data harvesting scandal at Facebook in connection with the 2016 US election makes one suspicious of the claim that no personal data is disclosed via Google data sets.
It is quite interesting that Google search capability, which was devised to help people understand the world, is also quite useful in helping the world understand people!
If you don't have the time to peruse this important and enjoyable book, I recommend the excellent summary published by The Guardian, which also includes an interview with the author.

2018/03/23 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Time magazine cover honors the Parkland, Florida, students (1) Cover story of Time magazine, issue of April 2, 2018, honors the Parkland, Florida, students and "March for Our Lives" organizers.
(2) Global detective work: A Twitter group effort helped identify the lone woman in this 1971 photo of scientists, in which all the men had previously been named. She is Sheila Minor Huff, a biological specimen analyst at the Fish and Wildlife Service at the time.
(3) Famed Iranian philosopher and free-thinker passes away at 83: Dariush Shayegan [1934-2018] died today at a Tehran hospital. Here is one of his noteworthy quotes: "Tolerance is accepting the other and taming your ego."
(4) Trump shows he is all bark and no bite: After threatening to veto the Congressional spending bill over inadequate funding for his wall, the one Mexico was supposed to pay for, he sheepishly signs it. The spending bill is a must-pass bill, as no one wants to be blamed for a government shut-down. So, true-to-form, the swamp denizens (the same swamp that was supposed to be drained) put all sorts of sneaky provisions into it. One such provision is protections for anonymous political contributions, aka "dark money."
(5) Previously anonymous DNC hacker known as Guccifer 2.0 has been identified as a Russian intelligence officer, who was in touch with Trump friend and confidante Roger Stone.
(6) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Mark Zuckerberg apologizes, sort of, for Cambridge Analytica's data misuse but also deflects blame.
- Amnesty International criticizes Twitter for failing to act on reports of abuse and harassment toward women.
- It's no longer a question of whether Trump will fall but of when he'll fall. Prepare for the war-like aftermath!
- Developing story: Iran accused of hacking US academic sites to steal intellectual property.
- Cambridge Analytica's leaked internal document reveals its blueprint for securing a Trump victory.
- Meme of the day: If you're not paying for it, you're not the customer. You're the product being sold. [Image]
- Oxymoronic tweet of the day: The Flat Earth Society has members all around the globe. [Image]
- "We're beta-testing ways to get the President to read his briefings." [Cartoon] [Source: The New Yorker]
(7) In Trump's logic, "x AND not-x" is true: You can be against the Iraq War and appoint one of its staunchest supporters, John Bolton, your National Security Adviser!
(8) Reality trumps spy fiction: Cambridge Analytica offered a foreign client services to entrap political opponents by using attractive women, unaware that the "client" was really a reporter entrapping them!
(9) Final thought for the day: It's poetic justice that the misogynistic regime in Iran and president in the US will both be brought down by women. [Photo: Nowruz in northern Iran, by Taghi Doostkouhi]

2018/03/22 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Baby doesn't seem to be pleased after his first haircut, 1955 The book-reading gadget of the future, 1935 Albert Einstein holding an Albert Einstein puppet, 1931 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Baby doesn't seem to be pleased after his first haircut, 1955. [Center] The book-reading gadget of the future, 1935. [Right] Albert Einstein holding an Albert Einstein puppet, 1931.
(2) Fragrance of jasmines fills the spring air around me, as I work at home, and my courtyard fountain is overflowing from a second day of rain. This beautiful rainy day will be followed by seven days of sunshine, if one is to believe the weather forecast. There is no end in sight for the scary clouds in our country's political scene, though. Happy Thursday! [Photos]
(3) Trump chaos continues: H. R. McMaster fired as National Security Adviser (to be replaced by John Bolton); Attorney John Dowd resigns; Dow Jones plunges on fear of trade war.
(4) Quote of the day: "A tree can be tempted out of its winter dormancy by a few hours of southerly sun—the readiness to believe in spring is stronger than sleep or sanity." ~ Amy Leach, Things that Are
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Tiffany ditched by boyfriend. Donald Jr.'s wife divorces him. Donald's marriage is on the rocks. Stay tuned!
- Panel on Santa Barbara's recovery from Thomas Fire and mudflows: Lobero Theater, 3/28, 3:30 PM.
- Tehran International Airport, at the moment of Spring Equinox (saal tahveel). [2-minute video]
- Iranian music: "Waltz-e Nowruzi" ("Nowruz Waltz")
- Someone had to say it: Americans' notion of masculinity creates lonely men.
- Geeky facts about White House's Oval Office: The ellipse has an eccentricity of e = 0.62. [More]
- Cartoon of the day: Isolationist-in-Chief hard at work. (So, this is the wall he was talking about!) [Image]
(6) To all Facebook users who take on-line personality tests and allow various third parties access to their personal data and friends lists: Cambridge Analytica, which worked for Trump's campaign to help with the production of targeted ads, used such tests, celebrity look-alike offers, and other seemingly harmless activities to harvest data and construct detailed psychological profiles for more than 50 million Facebook users.
(7) Cartoon caption of the day: "Facebook was better before they let moms and hostile foreign agents join." ~ Caption of a New Yorker cartoon [Referring to the illicit use of private data harvested from Facebook]
(8) Walking in the rain this afternoon: I was working at home, resigned to the idea that I won't walk today and will do double the walking tomorrow, when an e-mail message from a neighbor alerted me that the Devereux Slough had broken through to the ocean, creating a sight to behold. Since the rain had slowed down a bit, I immediately put my shoes on, took an umbrella, and began walking towards the Slough. These photos show the Slough and my return path via bluff-tops near the UCSB West Campus beach. Puddles and wet ground made walking a challenge, but it was well worth the effort. I was surprised to see that surfers were not deterred by the rain and high winds. Here is a 2-minute video of the ocean.

2018/03/21 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photo of John Hennessy and David Patterson, co-winners of ACM's 2018 A. M. Turing Award (1) ACM's 2018 Turing Award is bestowed upon John L. Hennessy (a former president of Stanford U) and David A. Patterson (a retired professor of UC Berkeley), for their seminal contributions to computer architecture. The duo is credited with popularizing the RISC concept, writing a highly influential textbook, and putting computer architecture on a quantitative footing. ACM's A. M. Turing Award, often referred to as the "Nobel Prize of Computing," carries a $1 million prize, with financial support provided by Google. It is named for Alan M. Turing, the British mathematician who articulated the mathematical foundation and limits of computing.
(2) Misogyny in Asian soccer: Mahsa Ghorbani, the only Iranian referee at AFC Asian Cup, likely won't be acknowledged by Iran's Football Federation. Her selection to referee a soccer match between two Asian men's teams has raised eyebrows, not just in Iran, but also in a number of other Islamic countries.
(3) Here's what kids think scientists look like: A few years ago, I posted the results of a similar experiment about computer scientists, who were drawn much worse than the average depiction in this study!
(4) One more female Senator will bring the Senate total to 23, a record high: Mississippi, the only US state that has not yet elected a woman to Congress, is expected to appoint the state's Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith to replace the resigning Senator Thad Cochran.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Austin serial-bomber dies after detonating an explosive device in his vehicle, as police closed in on him.
- Islamic-State attack near Afghanistan's Kabul University kills at least 29 and injures many more.
- Kushner family real estate business is accused of filing false reports to skirt NYC's rent-control laws.
- Ben Carson blames his wife on the purchase of $31,000 dining set for his office.
- Facebook appears to be in a survival fight, following its mishandling of illicit data-harvesting revelations.
- Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg should post status updates re compromised Facebook users' data!
- Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, a very close ally of former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, arrested.
- Santa Barbara weather: Much-needed rain today and tomorrow, followed by a week of sunshine.
- Evacuations from Thomas Fire burn areas create traffic jam on southbound US 101.
- Clever and interesting images for your enjoyment on this first day of the Iranian New Year.
- New viral meme, after Trump congratulated Putin for his "election" victory, against aides' explicit advice.
- If you want to practice finding typos and grammatical errors, here's